Busy week!

Jun. 5th, 2011 08:08 pm
mojosmom: (Default)
It's been a crazy, busy week, but in a good way. I've been to the Symphony, unexpectedly, twice. Tuesday night was my regular subscription night, and on Thursday, I got a call from a friend, who had another friend who couldn't use her tickets. So I benefited. Bernard Haitink conducted both nights; Tuesday was Schumann, Mozart and Brahms, while Thursday was Mahler's 9th Symphony. I usually sit on the main floor, but on Thursday I sat on the Terrace level, which is above and behind the orchestra. I'd never sat there before, and it's great, obviously, for watching the conductor, but it's very weird to be looking at the rest of the audience!

On Wednesday, I went to Glessner House,
Glessner House, courtyard
for an event celebrating the 125th anniversary of its building. It was designed by H.H. Richardson, and is on what was once Chicago's "Millionaire's Row", where folks like Marshall Field lived. The neighbors did not entirely approve of Richardson's aesthetic. Many of the beautiful mansions have been razed, and Glessner House was in danger, but was saved and restored, was the original home of what was then the Chicago School of Architecture Foundation (it has since dropped the "School"), and is now open to visitors. The Glessner's great-grandson re-created the groundbreaking, there was an enjoyable talk about the world, and Chicago, in 1886, and food and drink.

On Friday, I took the afternoon off from work to go to the Art Institute for a donor event introducing the new Japanese galleries (they've actually been open several months, though). There was a nice tea service (western, not Japanese) and the associate curator of Japanese art spoke. Then those who wanted (which, of course, included me) went to the galleries and the curator was available to answer questions.

The new African and American Indian galleries had just opened that day, so I had a browse. They aren't completely installed - the objects are all there, but the descriptive cards aren't, so I will need to go back to find out what everything is! (And, not incidentally, have my camera with me.)

This weekend, the first in June, is always a favorite, because it's the Printers Row Lit Fest, and the 57th Street Art Fair and the Hyde Park Community Art Fair (which are right next to each other). I did the Lit Fest yesterday, first going to hear Colm Tóibín and Belinda McKeon, and then wandering the stalls to buy books. It was horribly hot, so I didn't stay as long as I might have otherwise, but I did manage to pick up several books. Not as many as these folks, though:
Seriously buying books

Today was cooler, a really perfect day for breakfast and the Sunday paper on the back porch, and then wandering around a couple of art fairs.
mojosmom: (opera)
First opera of the season Friday night! The first trick was figuring out how to get to the garage where I normally park, as there is major construction on Lower Wacker Drive, and I can't get to it from my usual route. I called the building, and they were very helpful, even emailing me a map with all the various closures and alternate routes. But, in the end, I found a simpler way, though any route involves going north and east to then go west and south! We had decided to have dinner at the Corner Bakery at Michigan and Wacker, and then take the water taxi to Madison where the Opera House is. Since I parked near the Opera House, I took the taxi both ways. The Madison St. stop is by one of the major commuter train stations, so a lot of people use it for commuting, but it's also a great way to get a view of downtown that you wouldn't ordinarily see.

The opera was Verdi's Macbeth, and was directed by Barbara Gaines, who is the artistic director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. It's her first opera production, and was quite successful. Of course, it didn't hurt that Lady Macbeth was sung by Nadja Michael, who is gorgeous, physically and vocally, and was, as one of my companions described her, "a force of nature". Thomas Hampson was Macbeth.

Today, I went to the Chicago Symphony. It was supposed to be Riccardo Muti conducting Cherubini's Requiem, but he has cancelled his fall appearances due to illness, so the concert had morphed into Pierre Boulez conducting Mahler's Symphony No. 7. Though Cherubini is definitely more my speed, I did love the Mahler! It's hard to believe that when it was first performed people found the music "incomprehensible", as to the modern ear it is quite melodic. One hundred years certainly changes things!

So I bought this sweater yesterday (ignore the price, I never pay retail!), in the gray/black. The picture doesn't do it justice. From even a short distance, the collar looks like crushed velvet, and it reminds me of architect Jeanne Gang's Aqua tower.

Okay, there's a kid somewhere in the 'hood learning to play the trumpet. I can hear him when I'm in my study. He's not very good. I sure hope he improves! ;-)


Mar. 14th, 2010 11:03 am
mojosmom: (Music)
Back last year, when the powers-that-be in Chicago were trying to get the 2016 Olympics, local cultural organizations got on board with various promotions. The Chicago Symphony sold tickets to select concerts for a short period of time with a price of $20.16. How could I pass that up, despite my views on the Olympics?

So last night, I sat in the fourth row of Orchestra Hall and listened to an absolutely stupendous performance of Bach's St. John Passion. The Chicago Symphony Chorus is one of the best in the world, the soloists included counter-tenor David Daniels (whom you all know I adore), and David Schrader, a local treasure, played harpsichord. There was a pre-concert lecture, which I was glad to have attended, as the Passion is structurally complex, and I enjoyed, too, learning about the circumstances under which it was originally written and performed. (Whoever started this trend of pre-concert lectures deserves a prize.) It occurs to me that it would be interesting to hear it done as it would have been heard in Leipzig, with a small chorus and boy sopranos.

Yesterday morning, I attended the annual Clarence Darrow Commemorative Ceremony at the Darrow Bridge behind the Museum of Science and Industry. Very few words were spoken, as it was a damp, chilly morning and everyone was anxious to get inside. The story goes that Darrow said that if there were an afterlife, he'd come back to that spot. So every year on the anniversary of his death, there's an event, but, as far as anyone knows, he hasn't shown up yet. Gary Anderson, who portrays Darrow in a one-man show (and who presented at the IACDL event the night before) was there, and we were kidding him that he should have dressed like Darrow and appeared out of the mist! That would have been pretty amusing.
mojosmom: (Music)
I went to the opening gala of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last night. I don't usually, but Renée Fleming was singing, and she doesn't get out here all that much anymore. The CSO sent out an email a while back suggesting "formal dress", so I broke out the black Mme. X dress and wore long dangly earrings. It was raining, hence the soggy red carpet. But nobody cared. There were savory and sweet noshes and an open bar before the concert, which was nice. My seat was in the not-terribly-extravagant upper balcony, but was actually quite a good seat, in the center with a nice view of the stage. Fleming sang Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915, which is a favorite piece of mine, as well as four songs by Richard Strauss. We also got Leonard Bernstein's Divertimento for Orchestra and Strauss' Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, not to mention encores. A very good time was had by all.

Today I hauled four bags worth of clothes to the Brown Elephant and only came home with one, which was very restrained of me. Then I did laundry, such an exciting way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but it needed to be done. I even washed the shower curtains.

A full day

Jul. 15th, 2009 08:52 pm
mojosmom: (Chicago)
I was awakened by thunder and lightning and rain! Fortunately, it stopped before I left the house. I took off work today in order to go to the dentist to have my new crown installed, so I was glad that the weather improved. The dental work went fine. The new crown fit perfectly - no adjustments needed at all!

My plans included a visit to the Art Institute to see the new exhibit of Japanese screens, Beyond Golden Clouds, of which more later. I decided to go via Millennium Park and the Nichols Bridge, and found that there was a "Family Fun Festival" going on in the park. Kids were jumping rope and playing with hula hoops and building things and generally having fun. Then I went to check out the Burnham Pavilions, temporary installations honoring the centennial of the Burnham Plan. Only one of them is actually up. In typical Chicago fashion, there are delays in completing the second.
This one:
Burnham Pavilion, by UNStudio/Ben van Berkel
is really interesting, because you can go up on the platform and see the city's architecture through the openings. I liked it.

I then heard some music, and realized that the Grant Park Orchestra rehearsal was earlier than usual, so I went over to the Pritzker Pavilion and listened for a bit. Among other things, they were rehearsing Offenbach's Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld, which you'd all recognize if you heard it. It's the can-can music. The conductor, Gilbert Varga, was clearly enjoying himself. He was dancing!
Gilbert Varga

I then went to the Art Institute. Because I went in via the Nichols Bridge, I stopped on the Bluhm Family Terrace, which is a lovely space with great views of the city, and outdoor seating for the Terzo Piano restaurant.

The exhibit was fantastic! I love Japanese screens, and the exhibit had examples ranging from 16th-century to contemporary. They will be changing some of the screens in August, so I'll have to go back. I have discovered another benefit of carrying a camera around. If you can't get close enough to see detail, pull out the camera and look through the lens using your zoom! This contemporary screen is one of my absolute favorites:
Dragon Knows Dragon, 1969, by  Morita Shiryu

The Members' Lounge finally has a permanent home (it moved around a bit during the renovations). With the new restaurant in the Modern Wing, the Lounge has taken over the old restaurant's space next to the cafeteria, looking out onto the courtyard garden:
Fountain of the Tritons
That used to be part of the restaurant, but now anyone can bring their food or drink and sit out there. So I did (well, my cup of tea - no food because my mouth was still numb from the dentist), and finished my book, too.

When I left, I thought of going down to Powell's Wabash Avenue store. They are closing that location, and everything is 50% off. But as I left the building, I glanced across Michigan Avenue and saw that the Symphony Store is closing! Shock! Also everything 50% off. I went there instead, and spent a fair bit of time picking out several CDs to buy.

By then, it was time to go off to Petterino's, where I was meeting the president of Teatro Vista's board for a drink so she could chat me up about joining the board. I liked her a lot (she's an opera buff, too!), and it sounds as though she is on top of things, with good ideas for rejuvenating the board and getting the company on a sound footing. She gave me a packet of information to peruse, and I've decided that I shall say "yes" to the invitation.
mojosmom: (Music)
Wednesday night, my friends and I went to the Goodman to see a play called "Gas for Less" (yea, really, that's what it's called). It was about an independent gas station on the far north side of Chicago, and it's going under. The play is set on two dates in late 2005, and much of it revolves around the guys watching Bears football games. I'm convinced that the playwright meant much of the football stuff to be relevant, but it sailed right over my head, as I don't have the first clue about football generally or the Bears specifically. We had dinner first at Trattoria Ten, always good. When we were leaving, I noticed that Jim and Kevin were at the bar, so I stopped to chat. They were on their way to Chicago Opera Theatre's Orlando (see below).

Thursday I went to the CSO - Dvorák's Symphony No. 8 in G major, and Ives' A Symphony: New England Holidays, conducted by Michael Tilson-Thomas. I enjoyed it very much. However, I've decided I'm not going to re-subscribe next season, but will get individual tickets instead. Looking at the various series, I realized that there wasn't any one series where I wanted to hear every concert, and that I'd be better off getting single tickets for the things I really want to hear. It's been a bit logistically difficult, too, this year.

Saturday began with a few errands, and then a stop at a local consignment shop that was having a 50% off sale. I love consignment shops! I got a pair of shoes (black high heels), two dresses, two skirts and a belt all for around $30 (the shoes were the single most expensive item). Then I stopped at O'Gara's to pick up a book they were holding for me, The Smithsonian Book of Books.

The weather being absolutely gorgeous (I think summer may actually have arrived!), I spent a good part of the afternoon hanging out on the porch drinking iced tea, reading, and explaining to Lilith that, no, she could not go into the neighbor's apartment.

I had a ticket for Handel's Orlando that evening, at the Harris Theatre, and as the Gospel Fest was happening just behind the Harris at the Pritzker Pavilion, I decided to go down early and catch some music there. I don't usually get to go to Gospel Fest, as it is ordinarily the same weekend as the Printers Row Book Fair and the 57th Street Art Fair. But, for some reason, it's a week earlier this year (Blues Fest will be next weekend, along with the aforesaid book fair and art fair.)

I had figured on just grabbing a hot dog at one of the stands for dinner, but then I saw this sign:
Robinson's No. 1 Ribs

So I headed left and had some short ribs with sauce. The most amazing thing happened! I was wearing a white linen dress and did not get one single, solitary drop of barbecue sauce on it. I think that's a first. I had my camera (I seem to carry it everywhere these days) and took lots of photos, primarily of intricately braided hairstyles.

The opera was excellent (I do love Handel! all those counter-tenors!). They'd moved the scene from the time of the Crusades to WWII, and while I don't think the updating added anything, it didn't detract, either. There was a pre-opera lecture by the conductor, Raymond Leppard, who made some snide remarks about "Eurotrash" productions, but he said he had no problems with this one. He also said that the opera was rather about "Make war, not love", and that it was probably Mr. Bush's favorite. Snickers all round from the audience. I ran into Eric and Ed in the lobby beforehand, and again at intermission, and Eric (who should know) was quite impressed with Tim Mead, who sang the title role.

Mira came over today to pick up the keys. I shall have to get her keys to the basement doors as well, as she has a bike and will need to stash it there. She'll be moving in probably June 22, for about four weeks.

More hanging about reading this afternoon, and then over to the University for Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, with the University Symphony Orchestra, University Chorus and Motet Choir. Back home for a ribeye steak and asparagus, and a tomato, scallion, radicchio and endive salad, with green tea ice cream for dessert.

I do have to go in for jury duty tomorrow, so I'm hunting up a big, thick book to take with me.


Feb. 10th, 2008 11:24 am
mojosmom: (Music)
Last night, I braved the cold to go hear the CSO's concert production of Osvaldo Golijov's short opera, Ainadamar. (The librettist is the playwright David Henry Hwang, best known for M. Butterfly.) As I was waiting in the wind and cold at the bus stop, I thought, "If I hadn't paid for this ticket, I might bag this!", but I didn't, thank goodness. It was an extraordinary evening.

The opera is set at the end of the life of the Catalan actress, Margarita Xirgu, friend and muse of the poet, Federico Garcia Lorca. She is about to go onstage in the play he wrote about Mariana Pineda, and reminisces about him with her protegée, Nuria. We go back and forth in time, to her first meeting with Lorca, to his murder at the hands of the Fascists, and back to the theatre.

When Golijov (who is now composer-in-residence at CSO) first wrote this, Lorca did not appear in it. But encountering the mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, with a stunning dark voice and looks resembling Lorca's, he decided to the poet in a role written specifically for O'Connor (as he had written the role of Xirgu for Dawn Upshaw). Both O'Connor and Upshaw sang the roles here. The music is deeply lyrical, with echoes not only of Spanish, but Arabic, Jewish and other cultures. Golijov also uses other sounds, hoofbeats and gunshots, which turn into the staccato rhythm of flamenco. I'd love to see a staged production!
mojosmom: (Default)
I went to a "subscriber appreciation day" at Symphony Center today. This year, for the first time, I got a subscription to the Chicago Symphony. Just four concerts, but it's still a subscription, so they like me. ;-))

It was quite fun! Everyone gathered in the hall for a welcome, and then we split into groups. Mine went first to the Grainger Ballroom for a Q & A with percussionist Cynthia Yeh and flautist Jennifer Gunn. (Unexpectedly, we also got fed, so I'm glad I didn't stop for a bite to eat first, as I had thought of doing. A very nice spread!) Both Yeh and Gunn are relatively new to the CSO, and talked about their audition experiences, what they like in a conductor, a bit about their backgrounds, etc. It was quite interesting.

Then we went on a tour - front of the house and backstage. I took a bunch of pictures. On the way out, we were given a gift, a nice vase from Crate and Barrel. And, in a brilliant marketing ploy, today only, 20% off on tickets for any concert remaining in the season. So I succumbed to a couple - Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar, about Federico Garcia Lorca, with Dawn Upshaw, and one of the jazz concerts, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra with Irvin Mayfield.

And here are the last of my [livejournal.com profile] croc_sandwich Reflections challenge photos
mojosmom: (Music)
Lyric Opera has announced their 2008-09 season, and I can't say that I'm thrilled. Yes, it will be delightful to hear Natalie Dessay again (Massenet's Manon), and Lulu has been thrown in as a bone to those of us who like edgier work, but, honestly, the season smells of chestnuts roasting. Madame Butterfly, Cav/Pag, Porgy and Bess, Abduction from the Seraglio (which Chicago Opera Theatre did just last season!)The Pearl Fishers, and Tristan und Isolde (Davd Hockney's design), round out the list. Not that these are bad operas, but I would like to see them push the envelope more. Considering that they generally sell more than 100% of their seats, and are pretty much always in the black, they can afford to take more risks.

In the "not boring" category, I went to hear Mozart's Mass in C minor last night, along with Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Oliver Knussen's Violin Concerto, Opus 30. See, the CSO does a lot of programs like this. Mozart to get people in the door, and a couple of unfamiliar and contemporary pieces to make us stretch our musical muscles. And we got to see the sweet sight of Knussen himself, a great big bear of a man, sharing the applause with the violinist, slim little Leila Josefowicz.

I'm off this afternoon to a "subscriber appreciation reception" at CSO. I don't know what this is going to entail, but I figure it will be fun to find out.
mojosmom: (Music)
No, don't go rushing off looking for tickets. Here's what happened.

I went to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last night. The first piece of the second half was Webern's Five Pieces for Orchestra. Before it was played, the conductor, Mark Elder, addressed the audience, beginning, "I know most of you came for the Brahms . . .", and then discussed the Webern a bit. A then he said that, after the concert, they would play the Webern again (it's incredibly short - about five minutes), and said that he would invite us (or as many as could be accommodated) to join them on the stage (it's a small orchestra - 19 - for this piece), to, as he put it, "enter our space". So I stayed! It's an intriguing piece, and it was most interesting to listen to the musicians sitting behind them, seeing the hall they way they see it. And Elder talked about the piece for several minutes before hand, having different musicians demonstrate with a note or chord or two what Webern was doing with the instruments. I had such a good time!

This shows the importance of having subscriptions*. I rarely go to the Symphony (not a lack of desire, but a lack of time, money and organization!), but I got talked into a four-concert series. I'd have missed this! CSO is getting a bit more, well, "informal" comes to mind, but that's not quite right. It's more a "demystification" of classical music, via this sort of educational component, early evening "after work" concerts, etc.

Before the concert, I stopped off at a home décor boutique across the street from where I live, as they were having a holiday open house. I had a pomegranate martini (excellent, by the way) and scoped out some cute things. I didn't want to buy as I didn't want to carry packages downtown, but I'm going to go back tomorrow and take advantage of their 20% discount on holiday decorations. Saw some very pretty artist-made Christmas tree balls that will make nice stocking-stuffers.

Last weekend, I went out in the nasty weather for a concert of German Renaissance Christmas music by the Newberry Consort. It was at Saint Clement Catholic Church, which is a gorgeous, Byzantine-inspired church on Chicago's north side. Wish I'd brought my camera! It's not, though, the greatest place for a concert, despite excellent acoustics, at least not for the Consort, because it lacks the intimacy that I associate with this group. (Not to mention that the altar is between the audience and the musicians!) The music was glorious, lots of Praetorius, plus some other folks, including Martin Luther himself (who was, by the way, a very accomplished musician, composer and singer).

*Speaking of which, Danny Newman, who practically single-handedly invented the subscription series, died recently. Danny Newman obit behind the cut )

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