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Am I sleepwalking, or is that Lady Macbeth?  Scottish troupe brings sequel, and it’s a doozy

Am I sleepwalking, or is that Lady Macbeth? Scottish troupe brings sequel, and it’s a doozy

March 4, 2015 – 1:40 pm | No Comment | 45 views

Review: Surprise! Lady Macbeth didn’t die, after all. And how lucky for us that Scottish playwright David Greig decided to revive Macbeth’s formidable spouse, who now even has a name: Gruach. This very grand dame is the gravitational force of Greig’s “Dunsinane,” a thriller of a play brought to rugged, abundant life by the National Theatre of Scotland at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. ★★★★★

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Violinist Shaham turns to brisk Baroque Bach, recast in modern frame of super-slow videos

March 3, 2015 – 9:08 am | No Comment | 235 views

David Michalek film to the fugue in Bach's Sonata No. 2 BWV1003, a project with violinist Gil Shaham.  (Concert photos by Todd Rosenberg)

Review: “Six Solos for Violin,” a performance of Bach’s sonatas and partitas by violinist Gil Shaham with original films by David Michalek, at Orchestra Hall on March 1. Tour continues to Sonoma, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Champaign-Urbana.

By Nancy Malitz

After hearing Bach, there are melodies that linger in the memory, as if the brain is sorting bits to savor in pursuit of its own afterglow. But after listening to the Bach of Gil Shaham on March 1 at Orchestra Hall, there are images that linger, too. Read the full story »

Muti advances campaign for Scriabin as CSO delivers many-splendored Second Symphony

March 1, 2015 – 10:26 pm | No Comment | 105 views
Muti advances campaign for Scriabin as CSO delivers many-splendored Second Symphony

Review: Riccardo Muti’s season of advocacy for the symphonies of Alexander Scriabin must be reckoned a blazing success, even with one work remaining for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director to conduct when he makes his final appearances of the season at Orchestra Hall in June. Scriabin’s Second Symphony, currently featured in CSO concerts that continue through March 3, makes the point of musical merit as well as that of historical neglect.

Klezmer opera ‘The Property’ melds nostalgia, renewal in music awash with Old-World charm

March 1, 2015 – 12:19 pm | No Comment | 580 views
Klezmer opera ‘The Property’ melds nostalgia, renewal in music awash with Old-World charm

Feature Review: “The Property,” a new vest-pocket opera that burst onto the Chicago scene Feb. 25, is the sweet-spirited musical brainchild of a 28-year-old Minsk-born Polish composer Wlad Marhulets, who makes a living these days tooling music for films in L.A. Marhuletz came to the Lyric Opera by way of klezmer madness — not a disease, rather an exhilarating state of mind. Through March 5.★★★

‘The Other Place’ at Profiles: Brilliance provides no defense when dementia lays its dark siege

February 26, 2015 – 11:38 pm | No Comment | 260 views
‘The Other Place’ at Profiles: Brilliance provides no defense when dementia lays its dark siege

Review: Julianna knows that her husband, a doctor, is cheating on her. He sometimes slips and refers to a fellow physician – who has been consulting with Julianna about her episodes of disorientation, forgetfulness and anger – not as Dr. Teller, but as Cindy. That should tell you something. It’s plain enough to the betrayed wife, and she’s outraged. The mental decline and crash of this fiftyish woman, a biophysicist, is the substance of Sharr White’s play “The Other Place.” But it’s not the sum. Experiencing its totality, at Profiles Theatre, afforded one of the most rewarding nights in recent Chicago seasons. ★★★★★

Lyric Opera staging of Weinberg’s ‘Passenger’ casts intimate light on life, death at Auschwitz

February 26, 2015 – 1:22 pm | No Comment | 387 views
Lyric Opera staging of Weinberg’s ‘Passenger’ casts intimate light on life, death at Auschwitz

Review: The first impression of “The Passenger” by the Soviet composer Mieczysław Weinberg, whose Holocaust-inspired 1968 opera has been circulating the globe since its belated 2010 world premiere, is that of a major composer in his prime. Conducted with searing authority by Andrew Davis, the illuminating Lyric Opera of Chicago presentation of “The Passenger” seemed familiar right away. Weinberg was typically referred to as a lesser-known member of Shostakovich’s inner circle, but in fact he was on top of his world. ★★★★

‘Hopey Changey Thing’ and ‘Sorry’ at TimeLine: Compassion trumps politics at the family table

February 24, 2015 – 3:13 pm | No Comment | 157 views
‘Hopey Changey Thing’ and ‘Sorry’ at TimeLine:  Compassion trumps politics at the family table

Review: Family: the human comedy at its most hysterical. And I’m not talking about television sitcoms. I mean the authentically bizarre brand of familial farce that resonates through Richard Nelson’s quartet of Apple family plays, two of which are now on contrasting display at TimeLine Theatre. Directed by Louis Contey, “That Hopey Changey Thing” and “Sorry” are the first and third in Nelson’s Apple series. Each offers us a virtual chair at the table with four adult siblings and their elderly uncle as they confront family issues and stew over America’s political prospects in the time frame from November 2010 to November 2013. ★★ / ★★★★

Snatched from oblivion, post-Holocaust opera ‘The Passenger’ makes a rescue stop at Lyric

February 23, 2015 – 6:40 pm | No Comment | 397 views
Snatched from oblivion, post-Holocaust opera ‘The Passenger’ makes a rescue stop at Lyric

Report: “The Passenger,” a late-blooming 1968 opera by the Polish-born Soviet composer Mieczysław Weinberg, will have its Chicago Lyric Opera premiere as part of a whirlwind of introduction in Austria, Poland, England, the U.S. and Spain. Director David Pountney and author Zofia Posmysz talk about why. 

Double debut doubles pleasure as Nézet-Séguin and Rotterdam Philharmonic take Chicago bows

February 22, 2015 – 2:23 pm | No Comment | 528 views
Double debut doubles pleasure as Nézet-Séguin and Rotterdam Philharmonic take Chicago bows

Review: It was one of those double-take realizations, the improbable fact that conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the high-profile 39-year-old music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, had never conducted in Chicago – not with the Chicago Symphony, not at all. That – what shall we call it, oversight? – was corrected in stunning fashion when Nézet-Séguin brought his other orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, to Orchestra Hall on Feb. 20 with a program of Ravel and Prokofiev that confirmed every good report about the conductor and proved little short of revelatory about the Dutch ensemble.

Balm for a winter weekend, Mozart’s Requiem casts warming glow in hands of Muti and CSO

February 21, 2015 – 11:16 am | No Comment | 436 views
Balm for a winter weekend, Mozart’s Requiem casts warming glow in hands of Muti and CSO

Review: It was a sad time for Chicago’s musical community, which had lost two respected musicians within days of each other. By astonishing coincidence the scheduled program, dedicated to their memory, included the Requiem by Mozart, whose own life slipped away from him as he wrote it. A bit of the Lacrymosa is the last passage in Mozart’s own hand.

Role Playing: Eileen Niccolai harnessed a storm of emotions to create spark in Williams’ Serafina

February 19, 2015 – 1:27 am | No Comment | 415 views
Role Playing: Eileen Niccolai harnessed a storm of emotions to create spark in Williams’ Serafina

Interview: If you look at this wounded but willful, indeed headstrong and dauntless soul Serafina in Tennessee Williams’ tragi-comedy “The Rose Tattoo” and see nothing less than a force of nature, you’re on the same page with Eileen Niccolai, who brings the belligerent widow to hilarious life with Shattered Globe Theatre.

‘Sondheim on Sondheim’ at Porchlight: In song and anecdote, a portrait of the artist as wizard

February 18, 2015 – 12:00 pm | No Comment | 224 views
‘Sondheim on Sondheim’ at Porchlight: In song and anecdote, a portrait of the artist as wizard

Review: I came away from “Sondheim on Sondheim,” produced by Porchlight Music Theatre at Stage 773, laughing out loud as I mentally replayed the many video snippets of Stephen Sondheim talking about his life and art, setups for this musical revue of his stage works offered by an immensely talented pianist and an able vocal cast of eight. The live musical component of the show is both ambitious in scope and vocally demanding. Porchlight’s presentation comes off as spirited, engaging and capable, but also uneven. ★★★

Sex and the single troubadour: Lyric Opera turns heat up in earthy take on Wagner’s ‘Tannhäuser’

February 11, 2015 – 5:08 pm | No Comment | 466 views
Sex and the single troubadour: Lyric Opera turns heat up in earthy take on Wagner’s ‘Tannhäuser’

Review: It’s a bleak, war-torn world that greets Wagner’s prodigal troubadour in the Lyric Opera’s potent, sensual and yet strikingly unromanticized production of “Tannhäuser.” Typical of a current trend, the Lyric version – created by Covent Garden’s Royal Opera and now seen in Chicago for the first time – brings the story into a timeless present. Though generally dark, this treatment also energizes, and vibrantly colorizes, the prologue’s protracted sex romp at the Venusberg. ★★★★

Role Playing: Steve Haggard, aiming at reality, strikes raw core of grieving gay man in ‘Martyr’

February 8, 2015 – 1:48 pm | No Comment | 868 views
Role Playing: Steve Haggard, aiming at reality, strikes raw core of grieving gay man in ‘Martyr’

Interview: He’s buttoned up, reticent, visibly shielded against the world, the new guy who wanders into a gay bar in lower Manhattan. And Steve Haggard, who charges this muted character with an irresistible blend of charm and pathos in Grant James Varjas’ drama “Accidentally, Like a Martyr” at A Red Orchid Theatre, says the lost soul he plays seems so authentic because, in truth, he is.

Muti’s mighty Chicago forces wind up Carnegie campaign with impressive reprise of Prokofiev

February 3, 2015 – 11:50 am | No Comment | 980 views
Muti’s mighty Chicago forces wind up Carnegie campaign with impressive reprise of Prokofiev

Review: There was a wild and welcome counter-intuitive energy to the final program that Muti brought to his trilogy of concerts with the Chicago Symphony and Chorus at New York’s 57th Street temple of music, in the wake of a travel-hampering blizzard on the eastern seaboard and another underway in Chicago.

Andrew Patner dies; noted Chicago arts critic was 55

February 3, 2015 – 11:33 am | No Comment | 403 views
Andrew Patner dies; noted Chicago arts critic was 55

Report: Andrew Patner, critic-at-large at WFMT FM (98.7) and a contributing classical music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, died Feb. 3 after a brief illness. He was 55 years old. “It is with a profound sense of sadness, sorrow and shock that we must announce that our dear friend and colleague, Andrew Patner, passed away this morning after a very brief battle with a bacterial infection that overwhelmed his body,” Steve Robinson, general manager of WFMT, said in a statement.

Tour is a tour is a tour? Not for CSO and Muti, bettering Paris-Vienna best at Carnegie Hall

January 31, 2015 – 11:20 am | No Comment | 532 views
Tour is a tour is a tour? Not for CSO and Muti, bettering Paris-Vienna best at Carnegie Hall

Review: Perhaps it’s simply a matter of time zones and surroundings, but the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, playing the same music it had performed in its recent visit to Paris and Vienna, delivered a knockout performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall on Jan. 30 that outshone its best in those European capitals.

As Chicago Symphony unveils 2015-16 season, Muti pushes live streaming, concerts in Cuba

January 28, 2015 – 8:48 pm | No Comment | 594 views
As Chicago Symphony unveils 2015-16 season, Muti pushes live streaming, concerts in Cuba

Report: At a Symphony Center press conference, where details of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2015-16 season were released, music director Riccardo Muti expressed a three-fold desire to increase connections with Chicago’s many ethnic communities through neighborhood events, press forward with cutting-edge multimedia recordings and live-from-Chicago events that can reach a worldwide internet audience, and widen the CSO’s touring horizons beyond the U.S. and Europe to include newly open Cuba and “all the East, which is the future.”

Tatiana Serjan’s electrifying Tosca sparks supercharged new production at Lyric

January 25, 2015 – 10:25 pm | No Comment | 455 views
Tatiana Serjan’s electrifying Tosca sparks supercharged new production at Lyric

Review: ★★★★ Rekindling the fire, even the sense of surprise, in an opera as frequently mounted as Puccini’s “Tosca” is no small trick. But that is precisely the triumph of the new production that opened Jan. 24 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago – a mesmerizing night of music theater imaginatively staged, perceptively conducted and gloriously sung. In her Lyric debut as Tosca, Russian soprano Tatiana Serjan displayed a voice of great beauty, flexibility and power, all marshalled to ringing drama effect.

Chicago Shakes’ ‘Macbeth’ for young adults explores the dangers of unchecked ambition

January 22, 2015 – 6:10 pm | No Comment | 562 views
Chicago Shakes’ ‘Macbeth’ for young adults explores the dangers of unchecked ambition

Preview: Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is a tale told by an idiot full of…no, wait a sec. That’s not right. The idiotic tale is life – life itself, which Shakespeare’s reckless, overreaching, murderous Macbeth has messed up beyond redemption. In its 75-minute reduction of the Bard’s Scottish play aimed at junior high and high school students, Chicago Shakespeare Theater explores themes of power and evil, personal accountability and the dire consequences of rash action. “Macbeth” opens Jan. 24 at CST.

21-year-old Atlanta Symphony bassoonist wins post as new principal with Chicago Symphony

January 22, 2015 – 3:33 pm | No Comment | 1,764 views
21-year-old Atlanta Symphony bassoonist wins post as new principal with Chicago Symphony

Report: Keith Buncke was still a Curtis Institute of Music student in February 2014 when he won the principal bassoon job, at 20, with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Now 21, he has taken a second bounce, and it’s a big one – to become the new principal at the CSO.

‘The Humans’ at American Theater Company: Family as vortex of love and the unspeakable

January 21, 2015 – 11:30 am | No Comment | 479 views
‘The Humans’ at American Theater Company:  Family as vortex of love and the unspeakable

Review: As a slice of life play, Stephen Karam’s “The Humans,” taps deep into the real and complicated meaning of family values, and it leaves a stunning impression. In American Theater Company’s close-knit ensemble production, it is so casually articulate, genuinely empathic, starkly true. ★★★