Few people have done more to shatter glass ceilings in the symphonic world than Marin Alsop, the first woman conductor to lead a major orchestra in the United States. Given her pioneering history, she seems well positioned to lead “Breaking Barriers,” a July 29-31 mini-festival at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park where she serves as chief conductor and curator.
“Repertoire is opening up,” Alsop said. “Opportunities are opening up — finally — in our industry, and we’d like to amplify that and shine a spotlight on it. The idea is really to give voice to people who haven’t had a voice.”
For this first installment of what Alsop hopes will become an annual event, the focus is on women who were largely shut out of the conducting world until five years ago or so, and the rise of the #MeToo movement.
“Breaking Barriers: Women on the Podium” is inspired in part by the 100th anniversary last year of the birth of Margaret Hillis, the founder and longtime leader of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. In addition, 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship, which provides coaching and other career support for emerging female conductors.
Current Taki Fellow Anna Duczmal-Mr?z and Taki alumnae Laura Jackson and Jeri Lynne Johnson will join Alsop for a Chicago Symphony Orchestra program July 29 that includes Michael Daugherty’s “Time Machine” (2003) for three conductors and orchestra and “Source Code” by CSO composer-in-residence Jessie Montgomery.
The mini-festival (breakingbarriers.ravinia.org) will incorporate three other concerts, including one on July 31 with genre-busting bassist, vocalist and composer Esperanza Spalding, a symposium July 30 led by former Sun-Times music critic Wynne Delacoma, and an assortment of other events.
Here is a look at 10 other events worth checking out this summer:
June 8, 10 and 11: North Shore Chamber Music Festival, Village Presbyterian Church, 1300 Shermer Road, Northbrook (nscmf.org). Although not as big or flashy as some of its larger counterparts, this spunky festival can always be counted on for top-level artistic talent and creative programming. A highlight of the opening concert is the world premiere of “The Ghost of Kyiv” by young Ukrainian composer and clarinetist Dmytro Kyryliv, a 2022 recipient of the festival’s Arkady Fomin Scholarship.June 12: Rembrandt Chamber Musicians, Chee-Yun, violin, Jonathan Gunn clarinet, Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston (rembrandtchambermusicians.org). Korean-born Chee-Yun won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 1989 and has gone on to enjoy a successful international solo career. She will join five other participating musicians in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Sextet for Strings, “Souvenir de Florence.”Also on the program is “Souvenirs de Voyage” by Bernard Herrmann, who is best known for his evocative film music.
June 15: Grant Park Orchestra, Michelle Cann, piano, Carlos Kalmar, conductor, Grant Park Music Festival, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph (grantparkmusicfestival.com). This downtown summer festival opens its 2022 season with a concert that features Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement, which premiered in Chicago in 1934. The Black composer, who lived much of her life in the Windy City, fell into virtual obscurity after her death in 1953 because of prejudice related to her race and gender. The lost score for this work turned up at an auction in 2019, and the Philadelphia Orchestra gave the first performance of this original version in 2021 with Cann at the keyboard.June 17 and 18: Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, Kalmar, conductor, Natalie Rose Richardson, poet and orator, Grant Park Music Festival (grantparkmusicfestival.com). The festival’s 2022 season features six world premieres including Mischa Zupko’s “Blue Matter,” which culminates this program. Zupko, a member of DePaul University’s music faculty, composed this work for chorus and orchestra, which celebrates Chicago’s diverse musical legacy and pays tribute to pianist and vocalist Ray Charles.July 16: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Marcus Roberts Trio, Marin Alsop, conductor, Ravinia Festival, 201 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park (ravinia.org). Esteemed jazz pianist and composer Marcus Roberts has written a kind of homage to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Concerto in F. He and his trio will join the Chicago Symphony for the Midwestern premiere of Rhapsody in D, which debuted in 2016 at the Seiji Ozawa Festival in Japan and has been performed in two other American cities.June 17-19, Joseph Bologne’s “L’amant anonyme (The Anonymous Lover),” Haymarket Opera Company, Craig Trompeter, conductor, Holtschneider Performance Center, DePaul University, 2330 N. Halsted (haymarketopera.org/chevalier). Bologne, who carried the title Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was a prominent composer in 18th century France but was all but forgotten after his death in large part because of his race. He was born in the French-Caribbean colony of Guadeloupe, the son of a white plantation owner and an African woman enslaved by his wife. This is the Chicago premiere of his only surviving opera.June 23, 25 and 28: Giuseppe Verdi’s “Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball),” Chicago Symphony, Riccardo Muti, conductor, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan (cso.org).Muti’s concert performances of operatic masterworks have been among the highlights of his tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony. He culminates the orchestra’s 2021-22 season – his penultimate in his position — with just such a treatment of one of Verdi’s most popular and frequently performed operas.July 19: “French Wind Music,” Rush Hour Concerts, St. James Cathedral, 65 E Huron (imfchicago.org). This summer’s 13 installments of Rush Hour Concerts feature two works by 19th-century composer Louise Farrenc, whose music has been rediscovered and revived in recent years. This program will include her Sextet in C Minor (1852) performed by an ensemble that includes four members of the Chicago Symphony — French hornist David Griffin, flutist Jennifer Gunn, bassoonist Dennis Michel and principal oboist William Welte
Michele Rutigliano Photo
Aug. 13 and 14: Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and “La clemenza di Tito,” Chicago Symphony Orchestra, James Conlon, conductor, Ravinia Festival (ravinia.org). Similar to Riccardo Muti, Conlon, music director of the Los Angeles Opera, has devoted much of his career to opera. And just as Muti has brought memorable concert performances of full-length operas to Orchestra Hall, Conlon did the same as music director of the Ravinia Festival, and he returns as guest conductor for two more such offerings.Aug. 19 and 20: Franz Joseph Haydn’s “The Creation,” Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, Kalmar, conductor, Grant Park Music Festival (grantparkmusicfestival.com). The festival concludes its 2022 edition with this choral masterwork, the best known of the two oratorios Haydn created late in his long life. Inspired by the Handel oratorios he heard during visits to England, the celebrated composer wrote this adaptation of the Book of Genesis in 1797-98. It was last presented at the festival in 2002.Read More