Ravinia Festival Announces 2019 Summer Season

By Graham Meyer |

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Marin Alsop leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Joshua Bell at Ravinia

Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand,” the continued celebration of the music and influence of Leonard Bernstein, and four films accompanied by live orchestra await festivalgoers this summer at Ravinia, which released its 2019 summer schedule this morning.

The dominant theme in this year’s festival mirrors last year’s: Leonard Bernstein, the energetic advocate for classical music whose centenary occurred August 25, 2018. “We recall Bernstein as America’s music teacher,” said Welz Kauffman, Ravinia’s president and chief executive officer. “He wanted us to understand how to enjoy music and why it’s important to incorporate it into our daily lives.”

The impresario of Ravinia’s Bernstein tribute is Marin Alsop, the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, who studied conducting under Bernstein. To honor Bernstein’s contributions as both conductor and composer, Alsop programmed composers Bernstein championed in addition to his own music.

In the Bernstein-favorite category, on July 26 Alsop will lead Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, commonly known as the “Symphony of a Thousand” due to the sheer number of artists required to perform the monumental piece. At Ravinia, the stage will be filled with a double chorus, a children’s chorus, a battery of vocal soloists and a gargantuan orchestra (eight horns, six harps, and four keyboard instruments, to sample from the instrumentation).

Another favored Bernstein composer, George Gershwin, is represented July 13 by his Concerto in F, played by pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

Bernstein’s catalog of compositions allowed for several concerts’ worth of material that did not appear in the first year of Ravinia’s Bernstein fete, such as the United States bicentennial commemoration Songfest (June 20), the one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti (August 9, with Patricia Racette and Paulo Szot), the Broadway show Candide (August 9), and screenings of West Side Story (July 12) and On the Waterfront (August 9) with live orchestra.

Also, Alsop brought back one Bernstein work that did appear in the 2018 season: the aptly-named Mass (July 20), an enormous musical-theater piece for orchestra, choir and vocal soloists developed from the liturgy of the Catholic mass.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s residence at Ravinia from July 12 to August 18 comprises 13 programs, including all those already mentioned that fall in that time span. On August 1 and 2, the CSO pairs Beethoven symphonies and Brahms piano concertos—Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 with Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 (played by Yefim Bronfman) on the first, and the Symphony No. 3 and Piano Concerto No. 2 (played by Emanuel Ax) on the second.

In other CSO notables, Denis Matsuev plays Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 on August 7, Itzhak Perlman plays Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 on August 17, and the festival rolls out the cannons for the 1812 Overture in its annual “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” on August 18.

CSO concerts cost $35 singly for pavilion seating, $25 each when purchased in a ten-punch pass, except for Bernstein’s Mass, which costs $25 even without a pass. Lawn seats cost $10 and are free for students.

In addition to On the Waterfront and West Side Story, Ravinia will screen Coco (September 15) and Ghostbusters (July 21) with live orchestras.

Highlighting the chamber-music series, soprano Renee Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet will give the Chicago premiere of Penelope (July 28), a one-act opera by librettist Tom Stoppard (ArcadiaRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) and composer André Previn. Penelope, co-commissioned by Ravinia, is the last composition completed by Previn, who died this past February.

Other noteworthy dates for chamber concerts are June 18, for the Renaissance vocal ensemble Stile Antico; July 22, for cellist Gautier Capuçon and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet; July 29, for baritone Matthias Goerne with luxury-casting accompanist Daniil Trifonov; and August 30, when Jory Vinikour will play J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations on harpsichord.

Ravinia’s summer season will also premiere a new building on the festival grounds. The RaviniaMusicBox Experience Center houses a 65-seat theater and a gallery space. The theater presents 4D movies, where audience members wear 3D glasses and sit in seats that move, vibrate or produce atmospheric effects coordinated with the movie. The Grammy Museum’s “Leonard Bernstein at 100” exhibit will inaugurate the gallery space.

Concertgoers must procure a free ticket at either the box office or the Experience Center to enter. The building will be open from the time the park opens to visitors until concert time.

Ravinia donors can purchase tickets beginning March 19. Tickets will be available to all buyers on May 7 and 8.

For more information, visit ravinia.org.