Joélle, Elza, and Oriana

Joélle Harvey, Elza van den Heever, and the Oriana Singers

Joélle Harvey, Elza van den Heever, and the Oriana Singers

There are four performances left of Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago. All fans of opera should just look at their calendars and figure out when they are going to fit it in. You may even want to see it more than once. While this production was already seen with the blazing Christine Goerke in 2012, the revival may be even better with Elza van den Heever as Chrysothemis. Sure, Nina Stemme is amazing and Michaela Martens sings surprisingly beautifully as Klytämnestra; but for me, van den Heever’s searing tone, always in tune, with just enough edge to cut through the 93-piece orchestra, coupled with fearless acting that makes this one of the best things LOC has ever put on stage. Van den Heever has not been heard at the Civic Opera House since her fantastic Armida in the 2012 production of Rinaldo (which also featured Iestyn Davies who also returns this season). This is a shame, since the South African soprano has been winning fans for her gutsy and fully committed dramatic portrayals of scenery-chewing characters like Queen Elizabeth in Maria Stuarda and Mozart’s Elettra at the Met. I truly hope that the powers that be make her a Chicago regular. We deserve performers like her.

Once again, Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago is leading the way in introducing local audiences to important concert artists, who often have a companion burgeoning opera career. Soprano Joélle Harvey distinguishes herself in a saturated vocal category with stylish, detailed, but always beautifully inflected singing. Don’t take my word for it. Sample Harvey’s artistry HERE. Her recital with Allen Perriello is a preview of a similar program they will be performing at Carnegie Hall next week. Both Harvey and Perriello contribute to CAIC’s community engagement efforts in ancillary events including a free public masterclass. Harvey returns to Chicago in March as a soloist with Music of the Baroque.

The Oriana Singers’ evolving roster now boasts six of the finest musicians who could comprise the core of an all-star chamber choir, and who are individually in-demand throughout the Chicagoland area. They are sopranos Jessica Melger, Laura Pinto, and Henriët Fourie Thompson; tenor Matthew Dean; baritone Daniel Kazenel, and founder/director/bass Bill Chin. Avid choral concert-goers will recognize those names or voices. Readers of VAC will note that both Fourie Thompson and Dean have been named in Best of Year lists. Oriana performs their a cappella program The Book of Love in Oak Park on Saturday and at the acoustically magnificent St. Josephat’s in Lincoln Park on Sunday.

Other recommended events this weekend include the monthly Liederstube at the Fine Arts Building, Constellation Men’s Ensemble third new music program at the new “classical music incubator,” Guarneri Hall, and Handel Week Festival’s presentation of Acis and Galatea (for the opportunity to listen to the amazing Sarah Gartshore, another VAC Best of Year Artist).