Russia Distilled in Elgin explores culture through food, drink, music
Explore late 1800s Russian arts and culture through Tchaikovsky's tone poem "Francesca da Rimini" and sample authentic Russian vodka and snacks at Russia Distilled, set for 7-9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at Artspace Elgin, 51 S. Spring St., Elgin.
The evening of learning and libations is presented by the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and Gail Borden Public Library. Artwork on display was curated by Artspace Elgin and Art for All.
Dr. Irina Del Genio, Elgin Community College associate dean of visual and performing Arts and John Schwartz, frequent ECC and Gail Borden Public Library lecturer will explore and discuss the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, his Francesca da Rimini -- a fiery tone poem about two doomed lovers -- and the times in which it was composed.
The Russian tea will be sponsored by Dr. Clare M. Ollayos, chiropractor,; and ECC Chef Douglas Yeomans of Tarragon Catering will also speak about Russian cuisine and food sustainability. The menu includes samples of vodkas from Odessa, Ukraine; Kazan, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia; and Georgia Republic. Tarragon Catering will offer vodka dill house cured salmon on potato buckwheat blinis; fried Moldavian flatbread with farmers cheese and black currant jam; and smoked paprikash braised beef shank crostini. Also included are Russian dark bread and butter, caviar and beet vinaigrette salad.
Tickets for Russia Distilled are $12 in advance at ElginSymphony.Org or by calling (847) 888-4000; $15 at the door. Profits benefit ESO Ainsworth Concerts for Youth. Guests receive exclusive 50 percent off savings to hear Tchaikovsky's "Francesca da Rimini" at ESO March 2 and 3 concerts that feature Grammy-winner Jason Vieaux, described as "among the elite of today's classical guitarists," playing the Villa-Lobos' Guitar Concerto and John Corigliano's "Troubadours," and also include composer Bedrich Smetana's "The Moldau," a musical journey along actual sites on the river. For March 2 and 3 concert information and tickets, visit ElginSymphony. Org.
About the speakers
• Irina Del Genio's interest in U.S.-- Russian relations goes back to 1995, when she attempted to create the first American Studies Program and American Studies Center at the Ural Federal University of Post-Soviet Russia. It is there and then she understood the irony and the power of "fake news," clichés, and generalizations. Ever since, she has been trying to build bridges between our two nations. Del Genio holds a master of arts in political science (international studies) from Loyola University of Chicago; a Ph.D. in political philosophy (area studies) and an master of arts in world history from Ural State University, Yekaterinburg, Russia.
• Elgin native John Schwartz has had a passion for Russian history and language since he was a teenager and read the book "Nicholas and Alexandra." He received his associate degree from Elgin Community College in 1973, his bachelor's degree from the American University in Washington, D.C., in 1975 and his master of arts in German studies, also from AU, in 1977. In the course of a 34-year career as an analyst at the U.S. Department of Defense, John also taught Russian to Department of Defense civilians and military officers. Returning to Elgin in 2013, John has been teaching Russian at Elgin Community College since 2015 and conducts the German Conversation Club at Gail Borden Public Library. He has lived in Germany and the United Kingdom, and traveled extensively throughout Europe and Turkey, finally reaching St. Petersburg in 2014.