At the outset of Mozart’s Idomeneo, re di Creta (1781) the king of Crete, stranded at sea, makes a pact with Neptune. Soon after, back on shore, a Faustian music-drama of love, guilt, vengeance, and redemption unfolds. To Elaine Scott Banks, the artistic director of the City Musick, there is only one logical setting in the city for her group’s period instrument presentation of Mozart’s first important opera: the Shedd Aquarium, “amidst the marine life and nautical motifs and with eerie greenish light in the background,” she says. This kind of imagination (plus a knack for publicity) is one reason City Musick has become, in three short years, the success story on the local music scene. Of course, it helps that Banks (who plays the cello and conducts) and her colleagues–many of whom are Chicago Symphony instrumentalists–possess impeccable musicianship, meticulous scholarship, and tireless commitment to authenticity. What’s more, working in concert with Newberry Library’s Mary Springfels, they may soon realize the shared goal of turning our town into a leading center for early music. Certainly, this much-anticipated (and well-researched) production–staged by the talented Francesca Zambello and with impressive singers such as Frederick Urrey, Karen Nickell, Paul Elliott, and Alexandra Tsoku in the main roles–will draw fanfare and crowds. It’s also likely to direct our attention to this youthful opera as the work of a maturing genius. Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, 7:30 PM, John G. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive; 642-1766.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lisa Kohler.