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      Top Stories

      CSO at Millennium Park: Allegro con Muti

      Update: 7:43 pm CDT Friday's crowd is estimated at over 20,000 people. Hundreds more are being turned away at the park entrance. Riccardo Muti brings the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to Millennium Park on Friday for a free, all-Tchaikovsky concert. It's been four years to the day since Maestro Muti gave his inaugural concert in the park's more...

      Documentary Filmmaker Phil Grabsky at WFMT

      When Phil Grabsky looks out into the world, he sees stories that need to be told. As an independent filmmaker, he's followed his passion from Brazil to Angola, from Chernobyl to Afghanistan. He also has a fascination for great composers. Phil Grabsky is in Chicago to introduce his new film In Search of Chopin more...

      CSO Will Roll Out with a Bang

      The Chicago Symphony Orchestra makes a joyful noise this weekend, performing to capacity crowds. Riccardo Muti opens the concert season with four sold-out performances of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and a free Tchaikovsky concert at Millennium Park. With orchestra and chorus declaring Friedrich Schiller's Ode to Joy more...

      Winners of Genius Grants “Inspire us all”

      People who win don't even know they've been considered, but on Wednesday they were identified by international news agencies as "21 extraordinarily creative people who inspire us all." Some are scientists; others are historians, poets, or lawyers. There's an artist, a jazz musician, and a cartoonist. They are the 2014 MacArthur Fellows, recipients of what's often called the genius grant, a $625,000 cash prize – no strings attached more...

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      Riccardo Muti severs ties with the Opera of Rome

      Italians dismayed as star conductor pulls out of two productions at company hit by strike threats and protests

      The star Italian conductor Riccardo Muti has pulled out of two productions and in effect left his flagship position at the Opera of Rome, provoking dismay and hand-wringing over the state of classical music in his native country.

      In a letter reportedly written last week to the mayor of Rome and the general director of the city opera, the 73-year-old said the decision had caused him very great sorrow and had come only after long and tormented thoughts.

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      Carmen review an unappealingly coarse lead

      Millennium Centre, Cardiff
      Alessandra Volpe is less than thrilling in the title role of the WNOs stab at Bizet, but some of the support throws new light on the opera

      Welsh National Operas darkly atmospheric Carmen, conceived in 1997, reappears yet again, just as Mid-Wales Operas equally moody Carmen is beginning an extensive tour. All too much. Yet Bizets opera both the music and the psychological drama has so much more depth than its sometimes credited with and always manages to retain an essential integrity. Its inclusion in WNOs current themed-season, Liberty or Death!, invites a re-examination of Carmens own stand for personal freedom. And in Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leisers production, she is seen to be deliberately courting death, using bullfighting body language to headbutt Don José repeatedly, almost by way of inviting his fatal stab.

      Josés dilemma is not simply that of a man torn between the lure of Carmen and the pure, young Micaëla; the pull of loyalty to his mother is equally strong and tied to his aspirations to a soldiers honour. One of the difficulties of the operas spoken French dialogue is that these things get swallowed in general garble. With the casting of the excellent Jessica Muirhead as Micaëla, the clarity and intelligence of her delivery meant that this element of the story was for once properly balanced: the girl from home is more than a goody-two-shoes who holds up the action, she is honourable and, in her own way, fearless.

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      BBCSSO/Brabbins/Brewer review Christine Brewer subtly shapes Strauss

      St Marys Church, Haddington
      Christine Brewers unpushy rendition of Four Last Songs brought a little decorum to the BBCSSOs first post-referendum concert

      Emotions have been running fraught in Scotland, and the need for a collective unfurling is palpable. This Lammermuir festival concert of fervent works by Wagner, Strauss and Elgar performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra an ensemble whose post-referendum future has been hotly debated was never going to feel like business as usual. Considering the BBCs contested neutrality during the referendum, a quip from conductor Martyn Brabbins (who introduced an encore from Elgars Serenade for Strings by saying that we could now have sweet dreams of a happy future) wasnt exactly useful.

      Brabbins isnt one to be maudlin, though, and in musical terms he kept things brisk and understated. He opened with a clear, ungushy account of Wagners Siegfried Idyll: the playing was light, the inner parts lucid, the strings beautifully soft and grainy. The programme closed with a sober, thoughtful account of Elgars Enigma Variations. There was no syrupy veneer; the sound was dark and gravelly, there was anguish to the opening theme and unusual weight to many of the variations. Nimrod was quietly emphatic; the finale was stately and cathartic.

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      new releases

      Kraus: Arias & Overtures

      Naxos 8.572865

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      Stile Antico: From the Imperial Court

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      Organ Polychrome

      Reference Recordings RR-133

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      Works of Saint-Saens

      Warner Classics 0825646281442

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      Wagner Without Words

      Signum Classics SIGCD-388 (2 CDs)

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