What we’re excited to do in Chicago this week

By Stephen Raskauskas |

This week: party like it’s 1699, swing with the Duke, see one of Verdi’s very best operas, and more.

Celebrate 20 years of MusicNOW

Mead Composer-in-Residence Samuel Adams greets guests at MusicNOW’s post-concert reception on April 3, 2017, at the Harris Theater (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s acclaimed concert series MusicNOW celebrates 20 years of bringing contemporary music to Chicago during the 2017/18 season. The opening concert of MusicNOW presents a retrospective of works by former CSO composers in residence Augusta Read Thomas, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Osvaldo Golijov, and Anna Clyne. The performance is led by MusicNOW principal conductor Cliff Colnot. Former CSO composer in residence Mason Bates and Pulitzer Prize winner John Corigliano plan to attend. Later this season, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and composer, pianist, and improviser Vijay Iyer are among the many artists included in the 2017/18 MusicNow lineup. The series is curated by current CSO composers in residence Samuel Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek.

Details: Pre-performance lecture at 6:00 pm with Augusta Read Thomas and Shulamit Ran in the Harris Theater Lobby Level 1, performance at 7:00 pm in the Harris Theater, located at 205 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601. More info on CSO’s website.

Experience “Choir Boy,” from the writer of “Moonlight”

The cast of Raven Theatre’s production of Choir Boy

Writer Tarell Alvin McCraney took home an Academy Award with Barry Jenkins for Best Adapted Screenplay for Moonlight based upon his play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The film, a coming of age story about a young man of color coming to terms with his queer identity, also took home the Academy Award for Best Picture as well as the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture. Before Moonlight, McCraney wrote Choir Boy, also a coming-of-age drama, which premiered in 2013 in New York. In this story, the protagonist is the director of a choir, which means music lovers can rejoice in live music incorporated into the drama.

Details: Choir Boy opens Tuesday, October 3 at 7:30 pm at Raven Theatre, located at  6157 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60660. More info on Raven Theatre’s website.

Hear French soprano Sandrine Piau sing Poulenc and Gounod

Soprano Sandrine Piau (Photo: Sandrine Expilly)

Soprano Sandrine Piau makes her Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut in performances of Poulenc’s Gloria and Gounod’s Saint Cecilia Mass. The New York Times wrote her voice “has a creaminess that allows for brilliance without harshness…High notes have a lovely ping, and her careful management of vibrato allows for handsome coloristic effects.”  Though she is known in particular for her performances of music from the17th and 18th centuries, she is perfectly at home in a wide range of repertoire. Joining Piau as guest soloists are tenor Michael Schade and bass-baritone Andrew Foster-Williams. Alain Altinoglu conducts those pieces, as well as Prokofiev’s Suite from The Love for Three Oranges (which incidentally premiered in Chicago).

Details: Sacred Masterworks by Poulenc & Gounod. Three performances on Thursday, October 5, at 8:00 pm, Friday, October 6, at 1:30 pm., and Saturday, October 7, at 8:00 pm at Symphony Center, located at located at 220 S Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60604. More on CSO’s website.

Party like it’s 1699 with Bjarte Eike and his Barokksolistene

Bjarte Eike

Beer and music have always gone well together. That’s why Bjarte Eike and his Barokksolistene are serving up 17th century music the way it should be, with drinks. The musicians are touring following the release of their latest album, Alehouse Sessions, which brings together music by Henry Purcell with sea shanties, folk songs, and other genres. During performances in Chicago, you can hear Eike’s Alehouse Boys heat things up while you enjoy a cold one. Historically informed performance at its best.

Details: Friday, October 6 at 7:30 pm at International House, University of Chicago, located at 1414 E 59th St, Chicago, IL, 60637. More info on the website of UChicago Presents.

Hear the Duke’s greatest hits

Duke Ellington

Music Theater Works, formerly Light Opera Works, is honoring one of America’s most beloved composers and musicians, Duke Ellington, a concert featuring his greatest hits. Take the Purple Line to hear “Take the ‘A’ Train,” and other classics by the Duke like “Satin Doll,” “Mood Indigo,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “It Don’t Mean A Thing (if it Ain’t Got That Swing).”

Details: Performances run Friday, October 6 through Sunday, October 15 at Nichols Concert Hall located at 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL at various dates and times. For more info visit Music Theater Works’s website.

See one of Verdi’s very best operas, “Rigoletto”

Quinn Kelsey in Verdi’s Rigoletto (Photo: Cory Weaver)

Chicago audiences remember baritone Quinn Kelsey when he was a member of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s premiere training program for young artists, the Ryan Opera Center. Since, he has performed the title role Verdi’s Rigoletto around the world, including at the Zurich Opera and most recently at San Francisco Opera. Of his Rigoletto, Opera News wrote, it’s “not just the size of his voice or the finish of his technique, although both are impressive. It’s his heart. You hear the pain behind the anger…vulnerability is evident in every phrase.” Hear Kelsey in the opening night performance of Rigoletto at Lyric Opera this weekend. Performing the role of Gilda is Rosa Feola, who performed in Chicago recently in a concert version of Falstaff led by Riccardo Muti at Symphony Center.

Details: The opening night performance is Saturday, October 7 at 7:30 pm at the Lyric Opera House located at 20 N Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606. More info and additional performance dates on Lyric’s website.

You can also hear the opening night performance of Rigoletto from anywhere in world by tuning in to WFMT. Visit wfmt.com/listen to discover all the ways you can listen.