Chicago Symphony plans to celebrate 75th year at Ravinia

Updated 1/31/2011 6:34 PM

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will celebrate its 75th year of residency at its summer home, the Ravinia Festival, next year with a wide range of special programming.

From July 7 to Aug. 19, 2011, the 17-concert series will feature an all-star cast of guest artists, a pair of "Lord of the Rings" movie nights, a complete performance of Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca" and a celebration of the 200th birthday of Hungarian composer-pianist Franz Liszt, along with the usual wide selection of classical orchestral favorites.


"The prime reason I came to Ravinia more than a decade ago was to work with this brilliant orchestra in building new audiences for classical music," festival president and CEO Welz Kauffman said. "Ravinia is known for presenting something different every day sort of a Carnegie Hall without walls and at the center of our classical programming is an orchestra that can do anything and everything. They've proved that over 75 glorious summers, and our 2011 season will give audiences a smorgasbord of the CSO's infinite abilities."

The Liszt bicentennial will be celebrated in a variety of programs throughout the summer, including the CSO's July 7 opening-night performance with superstar pianist Lang Lang performing Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1, with former Ravinia music director Christoph Eschenbach also conducting Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.

The next night, André Watts will join Eschenbach for Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2 on a program that features Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and Hector Berlioz's "Roman Carnival" Overture.

Ravinia Festival music director James Conlon will conduct the CSO in a concert performance of "Tosca" on July 30. Soprano Patricia Racette plays the title role in what is regarded as one of the most popular operas in the repertoire. Bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, in his first Ravinia appearance in more than a decade, will portray Baron Scarpia; and tenor Salvatore Licitra will make his Ravinia debut in the role of Cavaradossi.

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Operatic music will also take the spotlight July 9 when world-renowned dramatic soprano Deborah Voigt sings major arias by Wagner, Beethoven and Richard Strauss under Conlon's baton.

The annual Gala Benefit Evening will celebrate "The Great Gershwin Here to Stay" on July 23 as the CSO is joined by pianist Kevin Cole and singers Sylvia McNair, Kelli O'Hara and Brian Stokes Mitchell, conducted by Conlon.

Conlon will conclude on Aug. 4 his multi-year Mahler cycle, in the centennial anniversary summer of the composer's death, by conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the dramatic cantata "Das Klagende Lied" ("Song of Lamentation"), one of Mahler's earliest works. On the same program, Itzhak Perlman will perform Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major. Perlman returns on Aug. 6 in the role of conductor with recent Kennedy Center honoree Leon Fleisher performing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major.

Music for the movies will be featured Aug. 18 and 19 with "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," when the CSO plays the Academy Award-winning Howard Shore score live as the complete film is projected on a giant video screen on the lawn and two video screens inside the pavilion.

Ravinia has set its 2011 CSO prices even lower than in 2010. Pavilion seats to three selected CSO concerts the July 24 performance of Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, the July 31 all-Tchaikovsky night and the Aug. 6 performance of Mozart's music conducted by Perlman are only $25 each. Patrons who purchase all three will also be given free pavilion admission to the July 8 program.

For information on tickets, call the Ravinia box office at (847) 266-5100, but note that tickets are not yet available by phone but may be obtained exclusively by visiting If you donate at least $75 to the not-for-profit festival, you can buy CSO tickets now (general sales begin April 27), and receive a 20 percent discount on their total order.