Posted inMusic

Taking Liberties

Fidelio Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, May 26 By Sarah Bryan Miller The Enlightenment was an optimistic time, and the men who shaped the age believed that their optimism was justified. They’d thrown off the shackles of superstition-based religious authority and governmental tyranny, and in their vision of the future, humanity would rise from […]

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The View From the Cheap Seats

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Orchestra Hall, October 11 By Sarah Bryan Miller When I spent a college semester studying in England I didn’t concentrate unduly on my formal course work , but I did take full advantage of London’s cultural life–plays, concerts, opera, galleries. Some were classic, some contemporary; some were wonderful, some ghastly. It was […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Crisis of Leadership

Chicago Opera Theater By Sarah Bryan Miller Opera was once ruled by sopranos–and to a smaller extent primos uomos–with whims of iron and the ability to toss a company-paralyzing fit on the slightest pretext. Composers hastened to write them arias that would show off their voices to the greatest possible advantage, and all other considerations […]

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Version Territory

Newberry Consort and Slavic Projection Folk Ensemble at Oak Park’s Grace Episcopal Church, April 12 By Sarah Bryan Miller What is musical authenticity? How closely should performers strive to hew to what they determine to be authentic? To what extent should commercial considerations (“Will people pay to listen to this stuff?”) be allowed to elbow […]

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At Home in Her Range

Cecilia Bartoli at Orchestra Hall, March 23 By Sarah Bryan Miller It’s an article of faith for some music lovers that virtually any woman who calls herself a mezzo-soprano is actually a soprano who doesn’t want to admit it. They reason that these singers are (a) simply unaware of what their voice is, (b) lazy, […]

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Raising the Curtain

Dmitri Hvorostovsky and the Saint Petersburg Chamber Choir at Orchestra Hall, November 17 By Sarah Bryan Miller The crumbling of the iron curtain into rust seemed like the conclusion of a fairy tale. Of course in real life the story doesn’t end. Adjustments have to be made, and they’re not always easy. The arts were […]

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Born Again

Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, September 20 By Sarah Bryan Miller One of the great underdiscussed, underacknowledged factors in music performance is repertoire fatigue–the weariness and boredom engendered by doing the same work over and over. Keeping something fresh is a big enough problem for singers during relatively short runs at the opera, where […]