****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** If you have never seen "West Side Story" on stage before, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago, part of their Broadway at Lyric series, may just be the most definitive version of this beloved musical that's available and you are highly encouraged to seek it out. Conversely, if you feel that you have seen this show too many times before, well, you have never seen it like this. Get your tickets now or you will be missing out on a unique opportunity to see it on such a grand scale. Regardless of your history with this show, Francesca Zambello's production of "West Side Story" is stellar for three very distinct reasons. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS
**** Highly Recommended **** When I was a child, I was positive I’d be a prima ballerina one day. The fact that I never had a ballet lesson was irrelevant. Alas, I grew up, and pursued another dream, becoming a writer. I still love ballet, and feel very privileged to be able to write about the Joffrey Ballet. Their spring engagement, “Across the Pond”, three contemporary pieces by three of the United Kingdom’s best choreographers, is absolutely brilliant. Again, the incredibly talented Joffrey dancers execute the most complicated choreography with flawless technique and timing. 4 Spotlights
Chamber music will be popping up in unusual locations across Northwest Indiana during the month of March. Project Listen Up, the brainchild of Valparaiso resident, Debra Silvert, is an interactive concert experience which will pull classical music out of the concert hall and take it to the places people hang out.
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** Tough, rare and bloody. These three words are used by the crew members of the ship, The Pequod, to describe the act of killing and subsequently butchering a shark or a whale and the quality of its flesh. It could also be used to define the mettle that was required to be a harpooner on just such a whaling vessel, or the peerless few who could sustain the occupational hazards. But, most aptly, those three words encapsulate Chicago Opera Theater's Chicago premiere of "Moby-Dick." Tough to take Hermann Melville's 1851 sweeping epic and distill it into as gripping and poignant of a libretto as Gene Scheer has miraculously done. Rare to hear a more hauntingly beautiful and stylistically varied score in a contemporary opera than what Jake Heggie composed for this 2010 work which has already been deemed a masterpiece. Bloody? Well, let's just say that this entire production is a bloody brilliant success. The only drawback to this is that far too many people will miss the opportunity to get a chance to see it. Following last evening's opening there is only one remaining performance to experience this essential, very American classic. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS
***RECOMMENDED*** There is always good reason to celebrate when new operas join the repertoire of major opera houses. "Ariodante" at the Lyric Opera is no exception. It is somewhat shocking that George Frideric Handel's 1735 masterwork has never been seen at Lyric in their 64 years of existence but the long-awaited premiere of this Baroque classic arrives containing some major surprises -- one of which was not planned by the production team. 3 SPOTLIGHTS
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** If you are a fan of classic operas presented in a very traditional manner and incorporating a mostly conventional approach to the narrative, then the current production of Lyric's "La traviata" is a must-see. Giuseppe Verdi's 1853 work, which is far and away the most romantic of his numerous creations, remains one of the most beloved and frequently performed operas in the repertoire of all of the major houses throughout the world. Verdi, working with a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave (the two men had an intense personal connection and are responsible for numerous successful operas) has taken the themes of disease and love and loss and forged them with a somewhat scathing critique of Parisian society's mores. The result is a timeless and powerfully beautiful achievement. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS
**** Highly Recommended **** The Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina” was quite simply, exquisite. That anyone could condense 864 pages of moody, broody and depressed Russians indulging in inexplicable and/or incomprehensible behavior into a 2½ hour ballet is awe-inspiring. Of course it took a pair of Russians to capture all that passion, all that angst, and a third to write the libretto. By the way, “Anna Karenina” is a co-production with the Australian Ballet. C’est magnifique! 4 BIG Spotlights
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** To put it quite simply, Lyric's current production of "Elektra" is electrifying! On opening night there was a pre-curtain announcement made from the stage that Swedish soprano Nina Stemme -- making her highly-anticipated Lyric debut in the title role that has earned her widespread acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera, Berlin, Munich and Vienna -- had injured her knee in a final rehearsal and that it may limit her mobility. An audible gasp rippled across the main floor. But being the consummate professional that she is, Stemme rose to the challenge and, if she was in any sort of pain, she drove it deeper into her portrayal. You never would have known the conditions she was battling, as it never once hindered her performance. As far as her voice is concerned, there is absolutely no doubt that it is in pristine condition. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS