As ready and willing as Duritz is to come to Ravinia, he’s completely uncertain of what attendees should expect from the setlist outside of knowing the full catalogue is on the table with the “25 Years and Counting” aspect. “The set changes every night anyway, especially this summer because we’re not touring much,” he confirms. “I don’t know that there’s anything that I feel like we have to play. We tend to play ‘Long December’ most of the time. That’s never been boring to us, so that’s one we tend to play every night no matter what.Read More
Like millions of others listening to the radio in the mid-’60s, Melissa Etheridge remembers when she first heard The Beatles. But she wasn’t a lovestruck adolescent dreaming about dating John, Paul, George, or Ringo; she was a toddler experiencing an epiphany.Read More
More than a century after his birth, Leonard Bernstein remains a pop culture phenomenon. Hot off the success of A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper will direct and star in a biopic about multi-hyphenate who many consider the most important musician in American history. At the same time, America’s most successful filmmaker is remaking the treasured 1962 Best Picture Oscar winner West Side Story. Someone with Spielberg’s track record of blockbusters is in a position to pick only the best.Read More
These days, “Your Mama’s Talkin’,” a song from Chicago-based blues scion Shemekia Copeland’s 1998 debut album, Turnin’ Up the Heat, has taken on a whole new meaning. Copeland became a parent in 2016, and when she isn’t wrangling her “little man,” she says she’s thinking about “the type of world I brought him into, and my concerns for him and what he will have to face.”Read More
For the 69-year-old Australian-born Richard Lewis Springthorpe (his real name), the Grammy Award–winning song would be life-changing. At the same time, however, Springfield was still an unproven entity; prior album releases did well, but radio play and massive sales were not yet happening for him in the age of MTV. So, the singer-songwriter took a role as the uber-handsome and dashing Dr. Noah Drake on the daytime soap opera General Hospital—just to ensure he got a steady paycheck, he says.
And then it happened.Read More
More than 50 years ago, Prine returned home from an Army stint in Germany and began work as a US postal carrier. Daily and dutifully walking the unapologetic, diversely populated, middle-class streets of his west-suburban Chicago hometown, he mentally molded melodies and lyrics in his head to break the monotony of his Maywood, IL, mail route.Read More
It was 2015, and Rob Thomas was scared to death.
His wife, Marisol Maldonado, was waiting for her phone to ring, waiting to hear what the doctor had to say about the tunnel vision she had been experiencing, waiting to find out if the lesion that the MRI had found at the base bone of her brain was something that would change their lives forevermore.
And there they were, one of music’s biggest music hit makers and one of the world’s most beautiful models sitting in a dreary parking lot in Chicago, waiting to learn their collective fate.Read More
Ringo Starr returns to Ravinia for the first time in 24 years on a double bill with perennial Ravinia favorite The Beach Boys for two concerts, Aug. 3 and Aug. 4. The global tour, with confirmed stops in America and Japan, commemorates the 30th anniversary of the first tour of Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band in 1989.Read More
Several weeks ago, I was getting some work done while on a flight from Orlando back to Chicago. Part of my agenda was to digest the libretto of Craig Hella Johnson’s poignant oratorio Considering Matthew Shepard. I already owned the Grammy-nominated recording on Harmonia Mundi and had been profoundly moved by it, but this was the first time I had actually read the entire text itself. I was, quite frankly, undone. The plane vanished from my cognizance, along with the din from the overwrought Disney vacation families that dotted the cabin. I sat there with tears streaming down my face. I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked up to see a startled flight attendant named Tammy. Her eyes softened as she said, “Here’s your Diet Coke, hon.”
“John was looking for a texture for The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” explains Sellars, “and he was going through medieval music and Renaissance music kind of like Igor Stravinsky, looking for music where there’s a very detailed and elaborate harmonic language. John came across Lasso and became so excited. He told both Grant and me to look at Orlando de Lasso.”Read More
Mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, who will be the soloist in Leonard Bernstein’s “Jeremiah” Symphony at Ravinia on Sunday, August 19, “discovered” her exceptional voice when, in her senior year, she auditioned for the high school choir near her home in Lakewood, WA. When the choir director heard her, Bridges was immediately urged to begin studying professionally.
“My family enjoyed music, all kinds,” Bridges explained during a telephone interview with Ravinia Magazine in late June. “My Dad has a beautiful voice, and he sang with the Sons of Thunder choir at the Allen A.M.E. Church in Tacoma. I began taking piano lessons when I was 5, but no one [in the family] was a professional.” The new adventure of voice lessons became a revelation. “I just loved singing so much,” she said. Even though Bridges was captain of her high school basketball team and had college sports scholarships on the horizon, she audaciously auditioned at top American conservatories and music schools.
There was a stunning moment in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “Celebrating 100 Years of Bernstein” gala this season. Kate Baldwin, on a brief hiatus from her Tony Award–nominated run in Broadway’s revival of Hello Dolly!, took the stage and delivered an ineffably moving rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s Vietnam-era protest song “So Pretty.” This affecting piece, with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, was first heard in 1968 at the Broadway for Peace fundraiser co-hosted by Bernstein and Paul Newman. It was performed then by Barbra Streisand with the composer himself at the piano. The song tells of a land far away with golden temples and pretty people with shining hair—who we are told “must die for peace.” The text concludes with “But they’re so pretty, so pretty. / I don’t understand.”
What Foster is doing is creating his first Broadway musical, a show based on the 1930s’ wide-eyed, Jazz Age flapper animated cartoon character Betty Boop. A creative team of Broadway A-listers has signed on for the project, including director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell, whose work includes the recently premiered Pretty Woman: The Musical, the Gloria Estefan bio-musical On Your Feet, and Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein’s critically acclaimed Kinky Boots (all three of which had their pre-Broadway tryouts in Chicago). Veteran television scribe Sally Robinson is writing the book, and Foster’s score will boast lyrics by Tony Award nominee Susan Birkenhead.
“It’s my first try at Broadway,” Foster says of the musical, whose subject matter demanded a very original story. “There never was a story because [Betty Boop] is a two-minute-at-a-time cartoon. I knew I wanted to make a step toward Broadway and musicals, and honestly Betty Boop was the first person to ask me. [Laughs.] So we had to create the story. It’s currently waiting for the script’s final punch-up. And then hopefully we’ll jump into a reading and then a workshop.”
One of the immortal composers of classical music, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, will join the ranks of such LGBT icons as Alan Turing and Sylvia Rivera with a biographical memorial in Chicago’s award-winning outdoor LGBT History Museum “The Legacy Walk.” Sponsored by Ravinia Festival, Ravinia Board Chairman Jennifer Steans, Illinois State Senator Heather Steans (7th District Democrat), and Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman and husband Jon Teeuwissen, the Tchaikovsky exhibit will be unveiled at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, on the Legacy Walk, which spans 3245–3705 Halsted St., Chicago. Award-winning jazz pianist-composer-accordionist Ben Rosenblum will give a street performance at the dedication and will make his Ravinia debut later that night. A “Dedication Celebration” will follow the installation at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., Chicago.
Two of Ravinia’s coming artists were given smashing notices in the New York Times last week. Performing on July 28 in the Street Chorus for Mass is Mykal Kilgore, who was hailed “a knockout performance” in Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World at New York City Center. Kilgore was last seen in the Windy City as Simon in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyric Opera. His other theater credits include Motown: the Musical and Hair on Broadway, as well as the first national tour of The Book of Mormon. He has also appeared on screen with roles in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar and The Wiz Live and the film Collateral Beauty.
In a review of Tony Award nominee Melissa Errico’s most recent role as Daisy Gamble in On a Clear Day, the paper gushed, “Any chance to hear Errico sing is a chance worth taking.” You have two opportunities to take that chance on September 8, when Errico appears in Ravinia’s most intimate hall in back-to-back performances on the $10 BGH Classics series. Other Broadway luminaries that have performed on the annual series include Jonathan Groff (Hamilton, Frozen) and Laura Benanti (Meteor Shower, The Good Wife, Nashville). You may never have the chance to see a rising Broadway star this affordably ever again!
Half a century ago years ago, four mop-topped lads from Liverpool released one of the greatest records of all time. Stuffed with classics, from the dreamy psychedelia of “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” to the pioneering production of “A Day In The Life,” Sgt. Pepper broke boundaries at every turn. Click here to read 11 facts about the album you have never heard before—you won’t be able to contain your giggles at number five! Sing along to the songs of the The Beatles when Classic Albums Live plays the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album note for note, cut for cut this Saturday night.
Ahead of last week’s Classical BRIT Awards, broadcaster Classic FM published a list of 30 classical artists under age 30 across the instrumental spectrum that have been captivating concert stages, including two of the big winners that night, saxophonist Jess Gillam and cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who also made headlines last month with his performance at the royal wedding.
The list contained a few more familiar names: accordionist Ksenija Sidorova, who returns to Ravinia on July 3 in the Martin Theatre after a pair of sellout BGH concerts last summer, and violinist Ray Chen, who makes his own return in the Martin on July 25 following plaudits from his CSO debut at the festival last summer. (“Chen takes a back seat to no fiddler when it comes to lofting long lyrical lines … his fast vibrato lending expressive intensity to the phrasing,” said the Chicago Tribune.)
Also featured were pianists Lucas Debargue, who brought a pair of signature programs to his Chicago debut in BGH in 2016, and Benjamin Grosvenor and Daniil Trifonov, who electrified their Chicago debuts on the same stage in 2013 and 2012 respectively.
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 Cumming, Michael 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.
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.
“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.