Summer Opera and Festival

With two world-class festivals that typically feature a healthy amount of song, oratorio, opera, and symphonic-choral performances, Chicago is a prime location for vocal music in the summer.  This week, the "people's" classical music festival – Grant Park Music Festival begins its 10 week span. The excellent Grant Park chorus will make its first appearance of the season in Vaughan Williams's Sea Symphony with soloists Sara Jakubiak, soprano, and David John PIke, baritone.  GPMF, which doesn't rely on ticket sales to be sustainable, is more adventurous in its programming than other major classical music institutions in Chicago. This means that it is possible for someone's FIRST classical music experience to be a bizarre mid-20th century oratorio based on epic poems from ancient Mesopotamia replete with the occasional ambulance siren and noisy chopping of a misguided helicopter. Nevertheless, the orchestra, led by a hyper-charismatic Carlos Kalmar, and chorus, directed by the equally ebullient Christopher Bell, are top-notch advocates for whatever is on the program. Concerts are free. There are 4,000 seats, more than half of them available without a "membership," or you can sit on any part of the lawn and enjoy a picnic with your pastoral symphony.  

Chicago Summer Opera, a training program now in its fifth season, returns with two productions this week. One is a perfect exercise for young artists – Purcell's  Dido & Aeneas.  The other is a beast and has the Editor scratching his head – Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito.  Tito may very well contain the most difficult soprano role in the standard Mozart canon. VAC favorite Mary Lutz Govertsen is one of the few "young artist" sopranos  capable of doing it.  Ms. Govertsen is ferocious on stage and will make a meal out of the coloratura demands.

Quick Picks: For light, summer fare, check out Bach + Beethoven Ensemble's early music pub crawl. It's fun to imagine some hapless customer's first exposure to the countertenor voice in a bar. And a brand new young artist opera workshop this weekend, Chicago Vocal Arts Consortium, presents Mark Adamo's Little Women (no outrageous dramatic coloratura soprano required).