Ravinia Celebrates Pride

June is Pride Month, and Ravinia is celebrating all summer long with a diverse lineup of both LGBT stars and allies. Tonight, catch YouTube stars Well-Strung performing universally recognized classical pieces while singing pop music hits from the likes of Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, and other stars for a uniquely engaging experience. Learn more about the “singing string quartet” in an interview with Ravinia Magazine here.

On Sunday, you can go back to “seventeen” and experience the legendary Janis Ian. Additional LGBT artists with upcoming performances include Alan CummingMichael Feinstein, and Boy George. Our Bernstein Centennial celebration will highlight the career of America’s most famous (gay) composer, and we will host the Chicago premiere of Considering Matthew Shepard, a piece that explores the life and death of the gay martyr to mark the 20th anniversary of the tragedy that spawned the Hate Crimes Act.

Meet Our Hospitality Hosts!

Where can I grab a burger? What Ravinia swag can I buy at The Festival Shop? And where is the bathroom!? For all these answers and more, look no further than our Hospitality Hosts, easily identifiable by their red “Ask me about Ravinia” aprons.

But if we’ve piqued your interest already, here are the answers to those questions:

1. Hit up 847 Burger in the market for our signature 8.47-ounce, 100% Angus beef chuck burger, cooked to perfection and topped with hand-sliced smoked brisket, melted cheddar, Texas sweet BBQ sauce, and fried pickles.

2. Sweatshirts and blankets, light-up hats, picnic gear galore and more!

3. There are four buildings with bathrooms along the perimeter of the park.

Ode to Ludwig: Beethoven's symphonies meet at the crossroads of popularity and vitality

Three of Beethoven’s seismic symphonies are featured on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Ravinia residency this summer, and Alsop heads up the pack on July 14 with the world-moving Ninth, featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus and soloists soprano Tamara Wilson, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, tenor Paul Appleby, and bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green. Gustavo Dudamel makes his eagerly awaited debut leading the Seventh on July 18 with an all-Beethoven program that also features his longtime, equally starry collaborator Yuja Wang performing the First Piano Concerto. Last, but not least, of Ravinia’s triptych is the Fifth, fated to be feted in the hands of Vasily Petrenko on August 4.

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Aiming for the Score: Inon Barnatan approaches his canon on the ball

When pianist Inon Barnatan returns to Ravinia on July 21, he’ll be there to extend the history of an institution. The festival has been hosting a high-spirited, evening-long celebration of Tchaikovsky every season for now 40 years. The Russian composer’s tuneful, dramatic ballets and symphonies are among the world’s most beloved classical pieces, and every year since the early ’80s, Ravinia’s “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” has ended with a rousing version of the 1812 Overture, complete with live cannons. This summer, for the first time, the ever-popular event occupies a full weekend, July 21–22, with concerts featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ken-David Masur. The Violin Concerto—with Miriam Fried, the venerable, 25-year lion of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, as soloist—is the centerpiece for July 22, the traditional Sunday concert, and Israeli-born Barnatan is joining the CSO as soloist in the First Piano Concerto.

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Keeping the Faith: Marin Alsop reveals and revels in Leonard Bernstein's everlasting power

“I thought, what I want for the Ravinia audience, if we can pull it off, is somebody who’s going to see the full picture of Bernstein, had a personal relationship with him and can conduct the stuff like crazy. I want somebody who I enjoy talking to. There’s selfishness to it, I guess. I’ve just always found her to be extraordinary,” says Kauffman, who was an artistic administrator with the New York Philharmonic when Alsop made her guest-conducting debut there in December 1999 as part of an Aaron Copland festival.

In addition to holding a succession of conducting posts, including her current roles as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra in Brazil, Alsop has followed Bernstein’s beat as an articulate spokeswoman and innovative advocate for classical music. She has also been a leading champion of his music; a boxed set of her complete Bernstein recordings on the Naxos label was released earlier this year. As a testament to her multifaceted accomplishments, she is the only conductor to win a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”—an honor she received in 2005.

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Lindsey Stirling: Bowing out of the smoke and mirrors

Once rehearsals began for the new tour, Stirling almost instantaneously realized that it would be quite the experience. “I have never co-headlined with anyone, so I went to an Evanescence show, and it was very different. I think we are definitely going to be looking to take a page out of each other’s books, especially when we see that both ways work,” says Stirling, who is no stranger to crossing performing practices, having finished as the runner-up on Season 25 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars teamed up with dance pro Mark Ballas. “It will be a different experience for anyone coming to this concert because there will truly be these seamless transitions between rock and electronic and classical. People are going to be blown away.”

Add that to the fact that the tour will be backed by a full orchestra, and it literally gives her a case of the goose bumps. “The orchestra is going to add this amazing layer behind my wooden violin,” says Stirling, who already raises hairs on YouTube, where her audience continues to make her one of the most influential musicians online. “There is a real vibration that you will be able to feel within your soul, especially in an outdoor venue. Physically you will be able to feel it.”

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Bring Me To Life: Evanescence finds immortal synthesis with symphony


“It makes you focus on a completely different part of your performance. I have a lot more stage to truly focus on musicianship, which is cool, but it’s also kind of scary because it’s very vulnerable. There are moments during the show that are very raw and quiet. You just have to embrace that silence and be totally comfortable in your own skin, focus and make something beautiful. I think for me this show is a lot more focused on the emotional side—I can’t help but get choked up almost every night at some point.”

Although Lee is an enthralling entertainer who can command a stage of any size, she’s also incredibly relatable as a songwriter who isn’t afraid to bare her soul on record or before a live audience. Selecting from her catalogue of songs for either incarnation of Synthesis was literally like going back through her diary, from her teens through getting married and becoming a mother in young adulthood, but the symphonic setting and ongoing reactions from listeners finally allowed her to embrace even the oldest entries.

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Snarky Puppy: A Cocktail of Influences Wags the Dog

“We’ve never thought of ourselves as a fusion band, but I understand why people associate us with the genre. As time goes on, though, the sound of the group is moving toward something else. I’m not sure exactly what to call it, but I feel like we all know what it is.”

In other words, fans and curious onlookers alike are best off simply gauging the ever-evolving direction for themselves when Texas-born/New York–based Snarky Puppy makes its Ravinia debut on July 2. League promises a combination of selections from the troupe’s instrumental albums and assurance that they never repeat the same show twice, much of which will be determined upon “the atmosphere, the vibe, the sound, and everything else that is shaping the moment.” And even if it marks the first time the group, which features up to 25 members in regular rotation, has performed at America’s oldest outdoor music festival, longtime Snarky saxophonist Bob Reynolds came up through Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute jazz program during its first year (2000), plus Snarky Puppy is no stranger to Chicago audiences.

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When Opera Went Electric; The Who's Tommy ran a live wire through theater

Turning 50 next year, Tommy has taken on many incarnations. In addition to its original 24-song, double-album format released in May 1969, it was staged in 1972 by the London Symphony Orchestra, starring additional rock luminaries like Rod Stewart, Steve Winwood, and Ringo Starr. In 1975, it became a star-studded, extravagant Ken Russell–directed film with Daltrey fully at the center and also starring Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Ann-Margaret, and a warbling Jack Nicholson. In 1992, Townshend and director Des McAnuff adapted Tommy into a darker, explosive stage musical that went to Broadway and won five Tony Awards. [Actor Michael Cerveris made his Broadway debut in the title role; 10 years later, just before winning his first Tony for Assassins, he starred in Ravinia’s production of Sondheim’s Passion and returned for Sunday in the Park with George and Anyone Can Whistle the following to years.] And in 2017 The Who gave a rare full performance for the Teenage Cancer Trust charity at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

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Well Strung: A Quartet with Entendres of Inspiration

This band’s brand is something unique, indeed. A zip through their albums and YouTube videos reveals an astonishing level of stylistic eclecticism and virtuosity, from fresh-spirited traversals of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to envelope-pushing fusions of Grieg’s First String Quartet with Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” and the down-home vocals of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” merged with bits of Bach. Listen to that last one and try to keep your feet still. “We don’t stick to any one genre,” Bagnell explains, “We pull from both a wide breadth of pop and a wide breadth of classical. We respond to music we like. Good music is good music, and if something speaks to our instrumentation and voices, we go for it.”

The ensemble’s artistic soul is probably best displayed in the pop–classical mashups they have amusingly dubbed “popssicals.” “Our first popssical was Kelly Clarkson mashed with Eine kleine Nachtmusik. They had a similar energy,” Bagnell remembers. “We have another with Taylor Swift and Aaron Copland. There was such joy in the Copland piece and fun in the Taylor Swift.” Sometimes their choices juxtapose in unexpected ways, as in a marvelous amalgam of the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria with Radiohead’s “Creep.” “We look for thematic elements, like this deeply religious music mashed up with ‘Creep,’ where a guy speaks about an unattainable woman with this almost obsessive, worshiping quality. They just kind of spoke to each other.”

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New Haute-ness: Ravinia opens the doors and floors of the Dining Pavilion with new cuisine from Chef Michael Tsonton

For many people, catching a show during Ravinia’s summer season is all about setting up blankets and tables, spreading out a picnic with wine and cheese, and hanging out with friends on the lawn while taking in a night of great music. But for many more, the Ravinia experience includes visiting one of the handful of restaurants onsite. With the 2018 concert season, which features a different act nearly every night through September 16, Executive Chef Michael Tsonton is introducing what he calls “micro-seasonal” dining, highlighting locally sourced ingredients on a continually fresh menu, keeping in line with the musical bills.

Even more exciting, Chef Tsonton will do this all with some brand-new concepts within the rejuvenated Dining Pavilion. On the ground floor, the new Lawn Bar and its two full bars will also serve small plates and entrées, and the Ravinia Market will feature five hot stations with different cuisines, as well as grab-and-go food and drinks. And the second floor is now home to both reservation-driven restaurants: the new Tree Top and its outdoor, covered Porch will offer a micro-seasonal prix-fixe menu in serve-yourself style, and the popular Park View will feature a refreshed menu. Ravinia Magazine spoke with Chef Tsonton about the new spaces, what makes him excited and his approach to seasonal cooking.
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Building Bridges: The iron is hot for fusing jazz and classical in RSMI's composition competition

It was in the spirit of the intense and aspirational goals of RSMI’s ambitious programs for jazz and classical musicians—as well as the bold musical vision of Leonard Bernstein, whom Ravinia has just gotten underway celebrating with an expansive multiyear tribute—that Bridges, an international jazz and classical fusion composition competition, was born. It offered an imaginative challenge for artists ages 17–30 (the same age range as the 60–70 performers invited to RSMI each year) to compose original works specifically for a string quartet and a jazz trio. “The Bridges competition was conceived to help give young professionals a place on the map—if not the world stage—which is precisely what RSMI has been granting singers and instrumentalists for the past three decades,” Kauffman said. The directors of the RSMI Program for Jazz had long dreamed of such a competition, having written many works combining jazz and classical music and players themselves.

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Pack Mentality: Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin Howls at the Band’s Unlikely Tracks of Success

Steve Berlin remembers exactly when he first heard the band that would come to define his career. But that first encounter 40 years ago was not a magical one. Things didn’t go so well for Los Lobos that night, and it wasn’t at all clear to Berlin that he would eventually join them and help the band evolve to a place of collective fame and fortune.

In 1978, Berlin was a young musician who’d left his hometown of Philadelphia to make his way into the music scene in Los Angeles. He was a session player and soon-to-be producer when he went to catch a punk show, headlined by Public Image, at an enormous venue. “It was at a boxing arena called the Olympic Auditorium,” Berlin recalls. With his penchant for blunt talk, he quickly adds some colorful descriptors: “It was a real shithole—just a horrific place for anything other than boxing.”

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