Critic’s Choice for the 2016-17 season

Mon Sep 12, 2016 at 2:00 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Ferrucio Furlanetto stars in Massenet's "Don Quichotte at Lyric Opera of Chicago November 19- December 7.
Ferruccio Furlanetto stars in Massenet’s “Don Quichotte” at Lyric Opera of Chicago November 19- December 7.

[Note: Rather than the exhaustive (and exhausting) Season Preview of past years, this fall Chicago Classical Review is taking a less epic and more user-friendly approach. This year we are presenting a seasonal Critic’s Choice with ten of the most essential classical events not to be missed in the 2016-17 season.]

Frank Martin’s Le vin herbé at Chicago Opera Theater
September 30-October 9 at the Music Box Theater

Chicago Opera Theater expands to four productions this season, breaking out to several new venues around the city. Leading off Andreas Mitisek’s envelope-pushing lineup is Le vin herbé (The Magic Potion). Frank Martin’s concise, spiritual distillation of the Tristan and Isolde legend is a virtual 180 from Wagner’s epic drama, and will be presented at the beautiful vintage Music Box Theater on the north side.

Wagner’s Das Rheingold at Lyric Opera
October 1-22, Civic Opera House

The Lyric Opera launches its season with Wagner’s Das Rheingold, the first installment of its new Ring cycle. Eric Owens makes his much-anticipated stage debut as Wotan, with Tanja Ariane Baumgartner as Fricka, Stefan Margita as Loge, and Samuel Youn as Alberich. Sir Andrew Davis conducts in a new production by the late Johan Engels (completed by Robert Innes Hopkins) and directed by David Pountney.

Ear Taxi Festival
October 5-10 at the Harris Theater and other venues

Co-curated by composer Augusta Read Thomas and Fulcrum Point’s Stephen Burns, the inaugural Chicago new-music festival will offer 54 world premieres with wall-to-wall performances by 350 of the city’s finest artists and ensembles. Concerts take place largely at the Harris Theater and the Chicago Cultural Center.

Berlioz’s Les Troyens at Lyric Opera
November 13-December 3, Civic Opera House

The French opera to end all French operas, Hector Berlioz’s sprawling two-part, five-hour setting of Virgil’s Aeneid offers a world-beater cast starring Christine Goerke, Brandon Jovanovich and Sophie Koch. Andrew Davis conducts.

Massenet’s Don Quichotte at Lyric Opera
November 19-December 7, Civic Opera House

Continuing a remarkable fall lineup at Lyric Opera, Jules Massenet’s adaptation of Cervantes returns, with Ferruccio Furlanetto, one of the most charismatic singing actors of our day, as the melancholy, windmill-tilting knight errant, Don Quixote. Clementine Margaine makes her company debut as the Don’s beloved Dulcinee, with Nicola Alaimo as Sancho Panza and Andrew Davis conducting.

Neeme Jarvi and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
December 8-10, Symphony Center

The Estonian conductor returns for his first CSO stand in many years in December leading a diverting program of Sibelius, Glazunov and Prokofiev with violin soloist Vadim Gluzman.

Joyce DiDonato performs a program of Baroque music December 9 at the Harris Theater.
Joyce DiDonato performs a program of Baroque music December 9 at the Harris Theater.

Joyce DiDonato
December 9 at the Harris Theater

In another season light with downtown vocal recitals, the charismatic mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato will make her Harris Theater debut with “War & Peace: Harmony Through Music,” a Baroque program geared to show off her vocal sensitivity and brilliance, accompanied by Il Pomo d’Oro.

Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
March 2-11, Symphony Center

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s weeks with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are invariably annual highlights, notable for the smart, adventurous programming as much as the brilliant execution. The Finnish conductor-composer’s two weeks in 2017 should be in the same tradition with two notable premieres. Salonen will lead the world premiere of his Cello Concerto with Yo-Yo Ma as soloist, a CSO co-commission, in addition to John Adams’ Scheherazade.2 with violinist Leila Josefowicz. Two Stravinsky ballets, Petrushka and Rite of Spring will fill out the programs.

Benjamin Hochman recital with “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!”
April 7, Mandel Hall

The greatest set of variations by an American composer has been heard rarely if at all in recent years in Chicago. Fred Rzewski’s hour-long keyboard masterpiece, inspired by a Chilean labor ode, will be the main work on pianist Benjamin Hochman’s smart, diverting program, which also includes music of Bartók, Janáček and Beethoven in the University of Chicago Presents Series.

Music of the Baroque: Telemann’s The Day of Judgement
May 14 and 15, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie, and the Harris Theater

Music of the Baroque closes its season with Jane Glover leading performances of Telemann’s The Day of Judgement, MOB’s first performance of Telemann’s dark oratorio in 25 years.

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