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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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      Don Giovanni review David McVicar offers ration over passion

      Sydney Opera House

      This cool interpretation of Mozart's classic is aloof but revelatory with a dark central performance from Teddy Tahu Rhodes as the serial seducer

      During the late 17th century, Europe saw a cultural movement that brought on not only the scientific revolution, but also the dawn of a new philosophical era. The age of enlightenment was set in motion by philosophers such as Locke, Voltaire, Bacon and Descartes, and it is during its death that the celebrated Scottish opera director David McVicar sets his new production of Don Giovanni.

      A black curtain shrouds the stage as the audience enters, revealing hints of the graveyard behind it. Reportedly inspired by a catacomb filled with 4,000 bodies beneath a cathedral in Vienna, production designer Robert Jones replicates this image with a set of moving walls and staircases behind which the actors can hide (and die). The costumes, faithful to the neoclassicism of early 19th century Europe, veil the singers with a sense of final judgment. All the main characters, save for the wedding party, remain in a vigil of black.

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      Pumeza Matshikiza: the township soprano who wooed the world

      One billion people watched her perform a freedom anthem at the Commonwealth Games launch. Will the South African singer pack the same punch at the Proms?

      Pumeza Matshikiza discovered opera as a teenager quite by accident. One day, she was switching between radio stations, and stumbled on the great Swiss soprano Edith Mathis, singing in The Marriage of Figaro. She was spellbound.

      Music lessons were, however, beyond the reach of a Xhosa child born in a township on South Africa's Eastern Cape especially in the last years of apartheid. But, as Matshikiza says, "you develop other means". A quick student, she learned African and European music by ear while singing in church choirs.

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      Prom 12: St John Passion review fascinating, beautiful and erratic

      Royal Albert Hall, London
      Some superlative playing in Bach's masterpiece, under the baton of Roger Norrington, but the evening's chief glory was the beautifully controlled choral singing

      This year's Proms allow us to hear both of Bach's passions, albeit in radically different treatments. The Berlin Philharmonic brings Simon Rattle's and Peter Sellars' much-discussed "ritualisation" of the St Matthew as part of its visit in September. First, however, came Roger Norrington's interpretation of the St John with the Zürich Chamber Orchestra and Zürcher Sing-Akademie a straightforward concert performance, fascinating, beautiful and erratic in equal measure.

      Central to Norrington's approach was the careful yet unobtrusive differentiation of the score's component elements, so we were conscious throughout of how they interlock to form a dramatic and emotional whole. The recitatives that carry the core biblical narrative were taken slowly so that every word could register. The Sing-Akademie used scores for the choruses, but put them aside for the chorales, delivering the former with great intensity, but treating the chorales as moments of quiet introspection. The arias, meanwhile, were big emotional statements, done with operatic grandeur and agility.

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      Godard: Piano Concertos

      Hyperion CDA-68043

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      Prokofiev: Violin Music

      Hyperion CDA-67514

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      Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

      LPO 0077

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      Beethoven: Symphony No 9

      Deutsche Grammophon 481 0591

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      Myung-Whun Chung: Piano Encores

      ECM New Series 2342

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