The covers of Ravinia's programs from its opening in 1904 through the 1930s were gorgeous “mini-posters” designed by well-known Chicago-area illustrators. I’d run across them in used bookstores and junk shops, where they were usually mixed in with old magazines and comic books. By the time I left for college, I’d been able to gather together most of the run. You’ll notice names like Hamilton King, James McCracken, Stark Davis, and intaglio artist Allan Weary. There’s also a 1930 program cover designed/illustrated by then Chicagoan Hal Foster, who was between Tarzan strip assignments.
There is something magical in viewing vintage advertisements, especially from the ’50s and ’60s. From the photographic/illustrative choices to the verbal style of the copy, it’s possible to get a small sense of what culture was like back then. Ravinia’s old program books contain a wealth of these vintage advertisements, with companies pitching such varied products as stereos, records, fashion, pianos, jewelry, and more. Some make overt references to Ravinia, many containing photographs or illustrations of the park itself to make the Ravinia connection that much stronger. The selections in this post focus on these very ads.
August at Ravinia has seen a number of high-profile artists and happenings which our fantastic audience graciously documented through social media. Below are some of our favorite moments from the end of Ravinia's 2016 season.
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.
Regardless of the genre they ultimately become associated with, most musicians worth their salt can cite a varied list of influences that helped create the performer they’ve become. And surely Bonnie Raitt’s list is as eclectic as they come.
“Any artist should be so lucky to have one song in their career that people still want to hear,” singer-musician Seal intoned in a 2015 interview with Details magazine.
He was, of course, speaking of “Kiss from a Rose,” the multimillion-selling, triple Grammy-winning pop hit from the soundtrack of the 1995 film Batman Forever that changed his life.
Before Andy Grammer made his national debut in 2011, the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist was at turns getting a crash course on entertaining a crowd from his father, Red Grammer (a Grammy-nominated children’s recording artist), or busking on the streets of Santa Monica, hoping to be discovered. And once he was, the floodgates of fame flew wide open, from the platinum-selling smash “Keep Your Head Up” and its equally contagious follow-up “Fine by Me,” to tour dates alongside Train, Gavin DeGraw, Colbie Caillat, Plain White T’s, Natasha Bedingfield, Mat Kearney, and Parachute, among others.
An hour’s conversation with Ksenija Sidorova flies right on by. The comely, Latvian-born accordion virtuoso may be a darling of the contemporary classical music industry, with appearances in A-list concert halls and, as of this year, a lucrative recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon to her credit, but she is also a refreshingly down-to-earth charmer.
It happens all the time. A famous, beloved artist falls ill (or, as is sometimes the unpleasant case, gets what may be regarded as a better offer). It even happens at Ravinia. A famous, beloved artist cancels, and management scrambles for an appropriate replacement.
Some cases become memorable, star-making events. Other cases are quickly, even mercifully, forgotten.
August 7, 1996: Tito Puente's Ravinia Debut
Tito Puente, one of the most influential Latin artists in history, made his Ravinia debut 20 years ago with a plethora of his best Latin jazz contemporaries, including Eddie Palmieri, Poncho Sanchez, Arturo Sandoval, and David Sanchez.
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.
We’ve had yet another wonderful couple of weeks brimming with awe-inspiring concerts, including the long-awaited return of James Levine, the Ravinia debut of Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers’s final tour, Titanic Live, and a pairing of Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck that left no one blue. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 80th anniversary summer residency is still on key with incredible performances of The Firebird, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and so much more. In Part 3 of our “Season So Far” blog series, we’ll show you a sampling of what’s been happening in our gorgeous park this month.
She may have come from humble beginnings as the fourth of 12 children in Locust Ridge, TN, with the Smoky Mountains as her playground, but from the very moment Dolly Parton stepped out on a stage as a mere child, she’s been on a first-name basis with the world.
Young Maya Lily Lubelfeld of Deerfield will be going to the Ravinia Festival for decades—totally for free. Thanks to being the first local baby born on Aug. 15, 2004—the date Ravinia celebrated the centennial of its 1904 founding—Maya received quite the special baby present.
The day she was born, conductor James Conlon visited Maya and her mother that morning at Rush North Shore Skokie to award the infant the one-and-only lifetime lawn pass ever issued at Ravinia.
When the New York Times Magazine profiled Danielle de Niese in 2009, a headline writer astutely dubbed her “opera’s coolest soprano.” And the moniker has stuck.
July 25, 1936: George Gershwin's Sole Ravinia Performance
After the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took residence at Ravinia on July 3, 1936, perhaps the next great highlight of that summer came just a few weeks later. Thousands descended upon the freshly reinaugurated festival in hopes of seeing—but most certainly for the chance to hear—the inimitable pianist, composer, and songwriter George Gershwin.
Jorge Federico Osorio is a classical artist with an international career. Born in Mexico, he could make his home anywhere. Yet after living in New York City for seven years, followed by London for another 11, he chose Highland Park, IL, to be the place where he and his wife, Sylvana, put down their roots and raised their two sons, Dario and Santiago.