As a lifelong Highland Parker, one of the things I cherish about Ravinia is that it is one of a handful of childhood icons still in operation. Woolworth’s, Garnett’s department store, Stash’s, Fell Company, Grant & Grant record store, Big Z Burgers, Chandler’s; all gone. But Ravinia is still making indelible musical memories.Read More
With the 2018 season mostly memories at this point, Ravinia’s photographers, who documented events all summer, have selected their favorite images of 2018 and explain why they picked their favorites, including performance shots, audiences enjoying themselves, and more than a few surprises.
Ravinia favorite John Legend wowed audiences in NBC’s Easter-night, live concert production of the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Ravinia famously presented the groundbreaking musical on August 6 and 7, 1971, (read the Chicago Tribune story) to what were then record-breaking audiences. One fan remembers the event.
In 2005 and again in 2016, Ravinia audiences were treated to a screening of possibly the most beloved movie of all time, The Wizard of Oz, with the musical score performed live. But as old as that screen classic is—the film was released in 1939—it was not the earliest film adaptation of one of the 13 Oz novels that Lyman Frank Baum would eventually write. The earliest attempt was part of a project the author himself oversaw 31 years before Judy Garland sailed over the rainbow—and it was seen at Ravinia over a century ago.
When you think of Ravinia in Highland Park, the first thing you probably think of is music. You may not, however, immediately think of food. But, you should. You really, really should. Ravinia Festival is the ideal Chicago-area dinner and show spot.
Chicago Foodie Sisters was recently invited to get a taste of what they have to offer at a food blogger dinner hosted for #Foodiechats at the Park View Restaurant on the grounds of Ravinia. It's one of several areas on the property where you can dine to enhance your evening. If you thought that a summer concert meant you were limited to overpriced nachos and hot dogs that you grab at a stand after waiting in an insanely long line, you couldn't be more wrong.
There are several dining options at Ravinia Festival that range from pre-ordered picnic boxes to quick, but quality take-away sandwiches and salads to leisurely indoor or al fresco dining of seafood, prime rib and more with wines from around the globe. It's the best place to enjoy live music if you're both a concertgoer and a foodie.
I grabbed the ad and flew to the mezzanine level of the house, where technicians and grips were arranging lights and cables. When I approached one and asked, “Do you think I could get Miss Hepburn to autograph this for me?” the grip answered, “Why not ask her yourself? She’s right over there.” I hadn’t even noticed her diminutive figure sitting on the stairs studying her script, and although I didn’t want to cause any disruption in the production, I hurriedly went over and blurted out, “Miss Hepburn, I’m a huge fan of yours and have had this photo in my office for years. Would you please sign it ‘To John’?”
As a classical musician, there is nothing I hate more than people ridiculing my art. When the only representations of opera singers in the media are fat, sweaty tenors and sopranos the size of battle cruisers, you tend to be pessimistic as to whether or not it is possible to portray a passion for classical music in a way that a modern audience would find inspiring.
In the most unorthodox way, Florence Foster Jenkins proves that classical music, though often seen as stuffy and alienating, stems from a burning adoration for the art of bringing music to life.
Because I was a still very young, I chafed at the appropriation of harpsichord music by pianists—especially since I was studying harpsichord—and it seemed rather obvious to me that one ought to perform music on the instrument for which it was composed. This was the bedrock assumption of the “original instrument” school of “authentic” performance practice, which was just beginning to go mainstream at the time and which today dominates the field of Baroque music performance. What I’ve learned since then, however, is that the whole subject is far more complex than it first seemed to me.
If you couldn’t be there in person, which is always Plan A, by now you have heard about the night of July 23, 2016 at Ravinia. And if I have my say, you will hear about it again. James Levine returned to Ravinia for the first time since 1993. And the gods seemed to herald his triumph with the thunder and lightning of a torrential storm for the record books. But you didn’t need a Doppler to detect that something historic was going down in Highland Park.
Sometimes the power of a film can sneak up on you and catch you by surprise. That was the experience I had when I saw James Cameron’s film Titanic—for the third time.
The Ravinia Festival is the highlight of my summers, bar NONE.
The place has such atmosphere and a feeling of joyful camaraderie you just don't get anywhere else. People sometimes feel inhibited at Lyric Opera or the Chicago Symphony. But, at Ravinia, everyone's inhibitions are released and true joy seeps out of every pore of the place.
I was surprised when I encountered a 1957 ad for the “Ravinia” Webcor turntable with very little information about its connection to Ravinia. At first I thought maybe it was just a coincidence that it shared the name of America’s oldest music festival, but further digging uncovered another ad from 1954 that gets as close as possible to referencing the festival itself without explicitly doing so. It states, “… you have the unmistakable impression that a ‘live’ orchestra is performing in your presence. That’s why the experts call the Ravinia’s performance—‘living presence.’” Coincidence? I think not.
As an intern at Ravinia this summer, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ravinia is much more than just concerts. In reality, Ravinia is about the experience, the tight community culture, and all the small things we do here that may (or may not!) go unnoticed by the concert-goers, but help make it an exciting place to be a part of.
As the 2015 season comes to a close and nostalgia starts to set in, I wanted to relive some of those moments from this summer. Join me on a trip down memory lane with my 7 favorite moments from the 2015 season.
The story is told quite viscerally through music: a ship dripping dread appears suddenly in the darkness, ahead of a storm that portends death. Such was the setting of the final weekend of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 summer residency at Ravinia. Ah, yes, The Flying Dutchman. Or, wait, was it Star Trek?
Perhaps the question I’m asked most frequently is, how far in advance does Ravinia book its artists? This one came up twice this week; oddly enough, on the Ravinia grounds. The answer is...
So on ghastly summer days with 99-degree heat and 99 percent humidity, that's where I went in my imagination. Lying on my bed, I would put Scheherazade on the phonograph while nibbling grapes and sipping lemonade, as if I were the Persian ruler to whom the stories were being told. It didn't dispel the heat, of course, but somehow, in that setting, the climate seemed more natural and bearable--at least for as long as the music lasted.
In this column I like to address real questions about Ravinia Festival posed to me by fellow Highland Parkers who I bump into at various locations around town. It seems a lot of these questions have been building up over the winter, so now that summer is here (or as Ravinia says, “summer is hear”), here are the top 10 questions so far:
To today’s audiences, who have heard nearly two centuries of music after the Symphonie fantastique received its premiere in 1830, Berlioz’s music sounds safe, melodious, beautiful, and brilliantly constructed, but nowhere near as jaw-droppingly shocking as it did to its first audience.
The marriage of music and animation seems apt enough, since the essence of both is movement, and animation giants like Warner Brothers and Walt Disney issued their short theatrical cartoons under the series headings of “Merry Melodies” and “Silly Symphonies.” Often the music behind the cartoons consisted of sappy pop songs of the day or