Once in a while a last-minute change actually results in a far more interesting program–just take this weekend’s at Grant Park. Originally, mezzo-soprano Tatiana Troyanos and soprano Benita Valente were slated to star in a jamboree of Handel and Mozart arias, which probably would’ve been like a buffet of tasty morsels: filling but unmemorable. With the cancellation of Troyanos due to illness, however, a sumptuous feast is promised instead. Haydn’s blockbuster oratorio The Seasons is the last masterpiece in a prodigious career. Even though Haydn felt ambivalent about setting to music this farmer’s thanksgiving–with a German libretto by Baron van Swieten, who also provided words to the more exalted oratorio The Creation–he succeeded in conveying his lifelong love of nature; this delicious work is filled with vivid literal transcriptions of country sounds, from frogs croaking to bird chirping. Its design is ambitious–almost two hours in length–yet its simplicity is utterly beguiling. What’s more, it cries to be performed outdoors. The veteran Valente is well-suited for the part of Hanna, the Austrian peasant woman; baritone Kevin McMillian sings the role of the simple Simon; and Lukas, the hardworking tiller, is essayed by tenor David Kuebler, who got his start being coached by Thomas Peck of the Grant Park Symphony Choris. Peck will prepare the chorus for these performances. Nicholas McGegan, the well-respected early-music specialist, conducts. Saturday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 7 PM; Petrillo Music Shell, Columbus Drive and Jackson; 294-2420.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Josef Astor, Jack Mitchell.