Wonder Women

This week's recommendations celebrate the women creating unique musical experiences in Chicago.

Founded in 2011, La Caccina has established its place as Chicago's premiere all-female vocal ensemble (not to discount the excellent Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble and VAC favorite Artemisia, a quartet and a trio, respectively). A brief perusal of their website archives hints at the obligatory programs dedicated to well-trodden treble repertoire (Hildegard, Britten, motets, and medieval stuff recorded by Anonymous 4) interspersed with world music, new compositions by local composers, and some pop.  Last June they went all-in on a bluegrass/Appalachian program, stretching their brand and risking alienating audiences who may only be invested in dulcet straight-tones and treble counterpoint. This week, La Caccina gambles that their audience will entrust their skill and artistry to take on one of the most iconic musicians of a generation in her magnum opus  – Joni Mitchell's Blue. Those who have attempted to cover this benchmark singer-songwriter's masterpiece and reverse-engineer what Mitchell has crafted discover that they are not up to the same level of guitarist that she is; or that they can't quite mimic those acrobatic-yet-somehow-unaffected vocal licks; or that they can't find the right balance of jazz and folk and pop and end up sacrificing the style that eludes them.  The Editor, knowing the musicianship and intelligence of the women in this group, is looking forward to La Caccina's virtuosic display. Friday at Kibbitznest in Lincoln Park and Saturday at Uncommon Ground (limited seating – reservation required) in Lakeview.

Eugenia Cheng's Liederstube (on hiatus in May while doing publicity for her recent book Beyond infinity) returns this Friday. If you have never been, Liederstube is a salon, or rather, an oasis, for the performance of art song with piano. The audience is often comprised of other musicians inspired to collaborate with Eugenia Cheng as soon as they realize that they are in the perfect environment for music making without judgement (and with the aid of the wine that freely flows). This is the manner in which art song particularly was meant to be enjoyed – among friends and intellectuals and without ceremony. The rise of Dr. Cheng's popularity as an author, columnist, and mathematician is drawing such attention to Liederstube that its intimate home in the Fine Arts Building may soon be too small to accommodate all of the onlookers as well as all of the singers waiting for their turn to sing Strauss and Schubert. Admission is free, but bottles of cold white wine are accepted.

Quick Pick:  Swiss-born and -trained soprano Regula Mühlemann makes her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in an all-Mozart program conducted by Manfred Honeck (Music Director of Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra). Symphony Center has had an impressive recent track record of introducing Chicago audiences to outstanding female singers: Amanda Forsythe in last fall's all-Handel program and Rosa Feola as Nanetta in Muti's Italian cast of Falstaff.  The 31 year-old Mühlemann appears to be making her bones as a Mozartean with soubrette roles in Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte, Il re pastore, and La finta giardiniera already under her belt. She will have a chance to prove her Mozart chops in the rapid-fire florid passages of Exsultate Jubilate and the walking-a-tightrope concert aria Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio.  Four performances June 8-13.