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      Summer Migration, Payoff for Chicago

      If you've ever seen a nature documentary about the Serengeti, you might have some sense of the migratory patterns of classical musicians. There are music centers, like watering holes, to which players journey in order to refresh, commune with others, and nurture the young. The Aspen Music Festival is one of those places. One only has to read the biographies of Chicago's top musicians more...

      Chicago’s Joan Harris to Receive National Medal of Arts

      On Monday, July 28th, the President and First Lady will recognize Joan Harris for her tireless support of the arts. It was announced on Tuesday that she would be a recipient of the National Medal of Arts. The visage of Joan Harris is a familiar one around the lobbies of the Civic Opera House and Symphony more...

      From Soviet Refugee to iTunes Favorite

      When Yevgeny Kutik was a boy, his mother declared, "Enough." She packed up her family and left the Soviet Union. There wasn't any one reason. It was a series of reasons: Yevgeny was bullied in Kindergarten; she was laid off because her employers exceeded their "quota of Jews"; her older son had picked up racial slurs at school more...

      Lyric’s New Opera (Just a Peek)

      Getting beyond “The book was better” - Last week, when Lyric Opera presented a sneak peek at the opera based on Ann Patchett’s bestselling novel "Bel Canto," general director Anthony Freud quickly closed the door on comparisons to the book. Addressing a gathering of patrons and members of the media, Mr. Freud shared some of more...

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      Why Garsington Manor was Britain's most scandalous wartime retreat

      After Ottoline and Philip Morrell moved to the Oxfordshire manor house in 1915, it became a sensational refuge for conscientious objectors

      It has been described variously as "the house of the Ottoline's", a "cesspool of slime", "the setting for a Mozart opera", "Shandygaff Hall", "a Boccaccio court", "a refuge from the storm". One thing is sure: Garsington Manor never lacked either attention or comment during the 14 crowded years it was the home of Lady Ottoline Morrell and her husband, Philip. Rumours proliferated: that Ottoline had dispatched her live-in lover, Bertrand Russell, to a house called Conscience Cottage; that Philip had fathered two illegitimate children in a single summer; that DH Lawrence, one of Garsington's most faithful visitors, had used his latest novel (Women in Love) to mock his aristocratic hostess for treating her guests "like prisoners marshalled for exercise". And had Ottoline (in fact dressed in a perfectly respectable bathing costume) really invited a young man, Duncan Grant, to dive and see that she was quite naked in the dark waters of Garsington fishpond?

      The stories thickened, tangling the old Oxfordshire manor house and its hospitable owners within a web of scandal and mockery. One visitor reported that a diseased peacock (in truth, a less than fresh turkey) was imposed upon the guests at a Garsington dinner party. Another (Siegfried Sassoon) paid ungallant homage to Ottoline as an eccentric aristocrat her height, beaky nose and titian hair would always draw attention in a satiric account of his hostess wobbling her way down a ladder to greet him in a pair of billowing pink silk bloomers. Mark Gertler, her protege, acquainted Ottoline with the brutal truth about the chattering friends who filled her home. "I am known as a dangerous and designing woman, immoral and unclean," she wrote in January 1918. "Nobody likes me ... "

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      Rinaldo review Handel's crusade is replaced by a circus

      Longborough, Gloucestershire
      With its parade of clowns and circus setting, the visual spectacle of Jenny Miller's production is alluring, but it's the musical acrobatics of Handel's score that engage the most

      Roll up! Roll up! The circus has come to Longborough. Handel's Rinaldo isn't an obvious candidate for the greatest-show-on-earth treatment. In the hands of director Jenny Miller, however, the characters and their essential nature are clearly delineated, even if Tasso's already muddled tale of the first crusade and the Christianisation of Jerusalem gets buried in the parade of clowns.

      This production was conceived to spotlight emerging singers, mostly in their mid-20s, Handel's age when he boldly wrote this first operatic creation for the London stage in 1711. None shows more long-term promise than the circus strongman Rinaldo (countertenor Jake Arditti, son of violinist Irvine), who delivers Handel's arias with a confidence and underlying emotional strength that carries the evening. As Armida, demon-sorceress and secret weapon of Rinaldo's opponent, the tiger-taming King Argante (soprano Rhiannon Llewellyn) is also vocally nuanced while appearing brazenly sexy. Mezzo Martha Jones's ringmaster Goffredo and Eloise Irving's Almirena make their mark, with baritone Nicholas Merryweather adding the weight of his experience as Argante.

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      Adriana Lecouvreur review perfumed Mediterranean Romanticism

      Opera Holland Park, London
      There's a lack of on-stage chemistry in this updated retelling of Cilea's opera, but it's the music that merits attention

      Francesco Cilea's 1902 opera has become more familiar at the world's glossiest opera houses since Angela Gheorghiu decided that the role of the actress Adriana Lecouvreur, the "humble handmaid of the creator", was a fitting vehicle. But Opera Holland Park, always minded towards Italian rarities, had already dusted off the work in 2002 and now the company is giving it a second new staging.

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      new releases

      Brahms Beloved II

      Telarc TEL-34659-02 (2 CDs)

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      Schumann: Piano Music

      Naïve V-5364

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      Per Monsieur Pisendel 2

      Avie AV-2308

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      Music for Heart and Breath

      Deutsche Grammophon B0021058-02

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      Robert Kyr: Choral Music

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