In a college town an outstanding, largely amateur ensemble like the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra can be a source of civic pride. But in Chicago it’s the professional orchestras that command the lion’s share of attention. Yet on any given day the U. of C.’s resident orchestra–or, for that matter, its counterpart at Northwestern–is capable of polished performances that surpass the pros. Much of the credit for its fairly impressive track record of the past decade goes to head maestro Barbara Schubert. A fine musician with good commercial instincts, Schubert likes to put her players through grand, unusual stunts such as performing the tracks for the revivals of silent-movie classics Alexander Nevsky and Intolerance. A typical program, not surprisingly, is heftier and more broad-minded than most at Orchestra Hall. Take the upcoming all-Beethoven concert: its centerpiece is Beethoven’s heroic opera Fidelio, but, as a bonus, Schubert has included Symphony no. 7, a centerpiece in its own right. This semistaged and abridged presentation of Fidelto features a cost of both up-and-comers and old-timers: soprano Nancy Pifer has the taxing role of Leonore, a symbol of courage and fidelity; tenor John Swenson sings Florestan, the political prisoner and Leonore’s husband; baritone William Diana portrays Don Pizarro, the bad guy; and WFMT’s Peter Van de Graaff is Rocco, the kindly jailer. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, Hutchinson Courtyard, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8484.

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