By Joseph Cunniff
Before March goes out—we hope—like a lamb, there is so much good music and theater in Chicago!
LYRIC OPERA: Richard Strauss’s Elektra had audiences on the edge of their seats, and then roaring with approval at the end. Scottish conductor Donald Runnicles, one of the few left-handed conductors, made his house debut leading a thrilling Lyric orchestra of no fewer than 97. Swedish soprano Nina Stemme was electrifying as Elektra; and no less amazing were American mezzo Michaela Martens as her mother, and South African soprano Elza van den Heever as her mother. The hugely able supporting cast made up for the ghastly costumes, and the work of Chicago theater artist Nick Sandys, the revival director of David McVicar’s original production, hit the mark throughout. The sets of John McFarland were appropriately sinister.
Lyric’s production of Verdi’s beloved La Traviata, with Albina Shagimuratova, is getting rave reviews, and runs through March 22, with 2 p.m. matinees March 7 and 10. Lyric’s eagerly awaited premiere of Handel’s Ariodante, starring Alice Coote and with Harry Bicket conducting, plays March 8, 11 and 14, with a 2 p.m. matinee March 17. Call 312-827-5600.
VISITING ORCHESTRAS: One of the finest orchestras in the world has one of the most unusual names: The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The name “Concertgebouw” is a Dutch word that means “concert building” and takes its name from their famous1888 concert hall in Amsterdam. They have been conducted by composers including Richard Strauss, and it was in his great A Hero’s Life that they were most exceptional, with characterful winds, magnificent brass and rich strings. The final section really glowed, and was followed by a long, respectful silence, before the applause erupted. They were led with remarkable skill by British conductor Daniel Harding, and their Brahms Fourth was warmly flowing and powerfully unfolding.
The next visiting orchestra to Symphony Center will be on March 26 at 7:30 p.m.: the San Francisco Symphony, with a program including Mendelssohn and Beethoven, Michael Tilson Thomas conducting. Call 312-294-3000.
CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: One of the very greatest orchestras in the world, the CSO performs with Riccardo Muti March 14, 15 and 16; Finnish conductor Osmo Vanska March 21 and 23; and with Esa-Pekka Salonen March 28, 29 and 30. Call 312-294-3000.
ORION ENSEMBLE: The stellar all-female group plays a program including Beethoven and the wonderful French composer Cecile Chaminade on March 20, at 7:30 p.m., at PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Ave. Visit orionensemble.org.
BROADWAY IN CHICAGO presents the hit musical A Bronx Tale March 12–24, at the Nederlander Theater, 24 W. Randolph. Visit broadwayinchicago.com.
PORCHLIGHT MUSIC THEATER’S smash musical comedy A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder has been extended, but only through March 16, at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn. Valet parking is available.
This most-amusing show, with Matt Crowle amazingly playing an astounding nine parts, has a most-pleasing cast, including Emily Goldberg as the scheming Sibella, and Andres Enriquez, who is fun to watch every minute he’s on stage.
CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER’S intimate gathering space in the lobby, The Pub, transforms for the first time into a performance space for Two Pints from Ireland’s Abbey Theater. March 5–31. Audiences are invited to pull up a stool as two men share a pint and a chat.
Joe Cunniff is a Chicago-based arts writer.