This is the question posed by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. Is she attempting to shed her sweetheart persona by putting some political teeth in her current project or is this the evolution of an artist who has always tried to break the conventions of a "classical" concert? Whatever the goal may be, the program itself will feature an artist in her prime singing the repertoire for which she is known - Handel, Purcell, and Italian Baroque. There will also be video projections, dramatic lighting design, custom gowns by Vivienne Westwood, makeup design by MAC, souvenir greeting cards by Hallmark, a lobby installation of responses to the chaos/peace question, a post-concert CD signing, and a nod towards her big gay following – a half-naked male dancer. Whatever you end up paying for this ticket, you WILL get your money's worth and will likely be moved by the performance of showcase arias like Dido's Lament, Lascia ch'io pianga, and Da tempeste. This show is almost sold out, but a few main floor seats remain which you can purchase HERE at a discount with the promo codes CHI40 or EDUCATION20 if you are a student.
Elsewhere, it is indeed the merry season which means carol concerts and Messiahs. The editor recommends La Caccina's female-centric medieval chant and polyphony program Beata Virgo Friday in Lakeview. La Caccina is showing a lot of stylistic range with their Bluegrass collaboration last season and a Fleetwood Mac program coming this spring. These ladies are singing everything from Stevie Nicks to Hildegard von Bingen.
Chicago Choral Artists continues their partnership with Kontras Quartet in A Candlelight Christmas. Kontras Quartet was recently named one of the 2017 WFMT Artists-in-Residence, the result of a months-long search that had many outstanding submissions. CCA artistic director Michael D. Costello caught on to their superiority early and now enjoys their regular collaboration.. A Candlelight Christmas, Saturday evening in Logan Square, is one of the few choral concerts that offer the textural varieties of a string quartet, an oboist, a flautist, and handchimes to break up all the a capella fa-la-la's.
Wicker Park Choral Singers in eight short years has built itself up to be a formidable ensemble of high skill and a distinct personality. The editor attended their Christmas program last year and remembers having one of the best Front-of-House experiences at any concert he had attended – an area that many presenters leave to chance, but one that can truly impact the audiences charity towards the organization. WPCS presents their program of French Christmas music twice this weekend in Rogers Park on Saturday afternoon and Wicker park on Sunday afternoon.
Finally, the Messiah to experience this weekend, after the more sassy and speedy versions presented by Bella Voce, Bienen School of Music, and Rockefeller Chapel, is the traditional full chorus, modern orchestra presentation by the Apollo Chorus. Stephen Alltop, Apollo's music director and conductor, is well-versed in historically-informed performance practice and is sure to make the 120-plus member chorus sing with gesture and style. The benefit of having such a large ensemble becomes evident with an epic sound for the lamb choruses (Behold the...and Worthy is the...). BONUS: soprano soloist Josefien Stoppelenburg is the Chicago Queen of Coloratura and can sing as fast and flashy as the American Sweetheart who appears in the same hall the night before. Apollo gives you two chances to bask in a big Messiah Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon at the Harris.