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Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Residency kicks off with unforgettable performances

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s annual six-week residency at Ravinia Festival runs through August 20 and features programs led by Chief Conductor Marin Alsop and distinguished guest conductors. Amplifying the theme of Breaking Barriers in 2023, most CSO programs this summer include pieces by women composers.

July 14: Alsop leads the CSO and its chorus, soprano Janai Brugger^, mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon^, tenor Paul Appleby^, bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, the Adrian Dunn Singers, Ayodele Drum & Dance*, Jim Gailloreto Trio*, and the Senn High School Choir* in an expanded version of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, with new text for the “Ode to Joy”—commissioned from former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith by Carnegie Hall—and jazz and drumming interludes between movements; a work by Reena Esmail, written specifically to be performed before Beethoven’s Ninth opens this program. This concert will be broadcast live on WFMT.

July 15: Alsop conducts a program of music by local composer Shulamit Ran (who was the CSO’s second composer-in-residence), Tchaikovsky and Brahms, with violinist Miriam Fried as soloist, as Ravinia salutes her 30 years as director of the Ravinia Steans Music Institute’s Program for Piano & Strings.

July 16: Alsop leads Ravinia’s annual gala fundraising concert with Tony and Grammy Award-winning vocalist Heather Headley, plus singers from the Ravinia Lawndale Family Music School and Voices of Trinity to benefit the festival’s Reach Teach Play music education programs.

July 19: Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke^ joins Alsop and the CSO for an all-Mahler program that features songs by Alma Mahler, who was a composer in her own right, and is bookended by (her husband) Gustav Mahler’s Blumine (a song-inspired movement originally written for his Symphony No. 1) and his Symphony No. 5 to conclude.

July 21: Alsop brings back the Chicago Symphony Chorus for works by Roxanna Panufnik—with TACF fellow Valentina Peleggi*—and Villa-Lobos on a program also featuring music from Gabriela Montero, playing her own piano concerto, and Gabriela Ortiz. (Part of Breaking Barriers Festival).

July 28: Mei-Ann Chen, a former Taki Alsop Conducting Fellow who Chicago audiences know from her role leading the Chicago Sinfonietta, guest conducts the CSO in music by Price, Copland and Beethoven, with piano soloist Jeremy Denk^, in his first appearance with the orchestra since 2016.

July 29: Guest conductor Ted Sperling and the CSO salute three iconic women singer/songwriters in a program of pop music by Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon with vocalists Andréa Burns*, Morgan James and Capathia Jenkins*.

August 4 & 6: Alsop returns to the podium to continue the CSO-at-Ravinia tradition of full-length semi-staged Mozart operas in the Martin Theatre. This year, she brings The Magic Flute with a stellar cast, including sopranos Janai Brugger^, Kathryn Lewek*, Tiffany Choe^ and Diana Newman^; mezzo-sopranos Ashley Dixon^ and Taylor Raven^; tenors Matthew Polenzani and Christian Sanders*; baritone Joshua Hopkins^; bass-baritones David Leigh and Adam Lau* and the Apollo Chorus of Chicago.

August 5: Van Cliburn Piano Competition gold medalist Yunchan Lim* makes his CSO debut with Alsop conducting Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, as well as works by former CSO composer-in-residence Augusta Read Thomas and Beethoven.

August 9: Guest conductor Jonathon Heyward*—the newly appointed music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra—makes his CSO debut leading works by Pulitzer Prize winner Tania León; Bruch, with violinist Benjamin Beilman and Rachmaninoff.

August 10: Teddy Abrams returns to Ravinia to lead the CSO in a program with pianist Jeffrey Kahane, featuring music by TJ Cole, Gabriel Kahane and Prokofiev.

August 11: Vocalist Rufus Wainwright joins the CSO for an evening of new orchestral arrangements of songs from his critically acclaimed albums “Want One” and “Want Two.”

August 17: Guest conductor Joshua Weilerstein* makes his CSO debut conducting a program of music by Still, Shostakovich and Elgar, featuring renowned cellist Alisa Weilerstein as soloist.

August 20: Guest conductor George Stelluto conducts the CSO’s annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular, with pianist and director of the Ravinia Steans Music Institute singers program Kevin Murphy and appearances by fellows of the Ravinia Steans Music Institute to close out the orchestra’s summer residency.

*Ravinia debut.

^ Ravinia Steans Music Institute alum.

Artists, dates and programs are subject to change.

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