Few people have done more to shatter glass ceilings in the symphonic world than Marin Alsop, the first female conductor to lead a major orchestra in the United States. Given her pioneering history, she seems well-placed to lead “Breaking Barriers,” a mini-festival July 29-31 at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, where she serves as conductor and curator.
“The directory opens,” Alsop said. “Opportunities are opening up – finally – in our industry, and we would like to amplify them and highlight them. The idea is really to give voice to people who have not had a voice.
For this first episode of what Alsop hopes to become an annual event, the focus is on women who were largely excluded from the world of leadership some five years ago, and the rise of the #MeToo movement.
“Breaking Barriers: Women on the Podium” is inspired in part by the 100th anniversary of the birth last year of Margaret Hillis, founder and longtime leader of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Additionally, 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship, which provides mentorship and other forms of professional support to emerging conductors.
Current Taki scholar Anna Duczmal-Mróz and Taki alumni Laura Jackson and Jeri Lynne Johnson will join Alsop for a Chicago Symphony Orchestra program on July 29 that includes Michael Daugherty’s “Time Machine” (2003) for Three Conductors and Orchestra and “Source Code” by CSO Composer-in-Residence Jessie Montgomery.
The mini-festival (breakingbarriers.ravinia.org) will include three more concerts, including one on July 31 with bassist, singer and songwriter Esperanza Spalding, a symposium on July 30 led by former Sun-Times music critic Wynne Delacoma, and an assortment of other events.
Here is an overview of 10 other events not to be missed this summer:
- June 8, 10 and 11: North Shore Chamber Music Festival, Village Presbyterian Church, 1300 Shermer Road, Northbrook (nscmf.org). While not as big or flashy as some of its larger counterparts, this spunky festival can still boast top-notch artistic talent and creative programming. One of the highlights of the opening concert is the world premiere of “The Ghost of Kyiv” by young Ukrainian composer and clarinetist Dmytro Kyryliv, winner of the festival’s 2022 Arkady Fomin Fellowship.
- June 12: Rembrandt Chamber Musicians, Chee-Yun, violin, Jonathan Gunn clarinet, Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston (rembrandtchambermusicians.org). Korean-born Chee-Yun won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 1989 and went on to a successful international solo career. She will join five other participating musicians in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s String Sextet, “Souvenir de Florence”. Also on the program, “Souvenirs de Voyage” by Bernard Herrmann, who is best known for his evocative film music.
- June 15: Grant Park Orchestra, Michelle Cann, piano, Carlos Kalmar, conductor, Grant Park Music Festival, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph (grantparkmusicfestival.com). This downtown summer festival opens its 2022 season with a concert featuring Florence Price’s One-Movement Piano Concerto, premiered in Chicago in 1934. The black composer, who has lived much of her life in the Windy City, fell into virtual obscurity after his death. in 1953 because of racial and gender bias. The lost score of this work appeared at an auction in 2019, and the Philadelphia Orchestra gave the first performance of this original version in 2021 with Cann on keyboard.
- June 17 and 18: Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, Kalmar, conductor, Natalie Rose Richardson, poet and speaker, Grant Park Music Festival (grantparkmusicfestival.com). The 2022 season of the festival includes six world premieres, including “Blue Matter” by Mischa Zupko, which crowns this program. Zupko, a member of the DePaul University School of Music, composed this work for choir and orchestra, which celebrates Chicago’s diverse musical heritage and pays homage to pianist and singer Ray Charles.
- July 16: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Marcus Roberts Trio, Marin Alsop, conductor, Ravinia Festival, 201 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park (ravinia.org). Renowned jazz pianist and composer Marcus Roberts has written a sort of tribute to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Concerto in F. He and his trio will join the Chicago Symphony for the Midwest premiere of Rhapsody in D, which debuted in 2016 at the Seiji Ozawa Festival in Japan and has been performed in two other US cities.
- June 17-19, “The Anonymous Lover” by Joseph Bologna, Haymarket Opera Company, Craig Trompeter, conductor, Holtschneider Performance Center, DePaul University, 2330 N. Halsted (haymarketopera.org/chevalier). Bologna, who bore the title of Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was a prominent composer in 18th-century France, but was all but forgotten after his death, largely because of his race. He was born in the Franco-Caribbean colony of Guadeloupe, the son of a white plantation owner and an African woman enslaved by his wife. This is the Chicago premiere of his only surviving opera.
- June 23, 25 and 28: “Un ballo in maschera (A masked ball)” by Giuseppe Verdi, Chicago Symphony, Riccardo Muti, conductor, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan (cso.org). It culminates the orchestra’s 2021-22 season – its penultimate in office – with such treatment of one of Verdi’s most popular and performed operas.
- July 19: “French Wind Music”, Rush Hour Concerts, St. James Cathedral, 65 E Huron (imfchicago.org). The 13 episodes of Rush Hour Concerts this summer feature two works by 19th-century composer Louise Farrenc, whose music has been rediscovered and revived in recent years. This program will include his Sextet in C minor (1852) performed by an ensemble that includes four members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — French horn player David Griffin, flautist Jennifer Gunn, bassoonist Dennis Michel and principal oboist William Welte.
- August 13 and 14: “Don Giovanni” and “The Clemency of Tito” by Mozart Chicago Symphony Orchestra, James Conlon, conductor, Ravinia Festival (ravinia.org). Similar to Riccardo Muti, Conlon, Music Director of the Los Angeles Opera, has devoted much of his career to opera. And just as Muti brought memorable concerts of full operas to Orchestra Hall, so has Conlon as musical director of the Ravinia Festival, and he returns as guest conductor for two more such offerings.
- August 19 and 20: “The Creation” by Franz Joseph Haydn Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, Kalmar, conductor, Grant Park Music Festival (grantparkmusicfestival.com). The festival concludes its 2022 edition with this choral masterpiece, the best known of the two oratorios that Haydn premiered at the end of his long life. Inspired by Handel’s oratorios heard during trips to England, the famous composer wrote this adaptation of the Book of Genesis in 1797-98. It was last presented at the festival in 2002.