A memorable evening in Ravinia with masterpieces by Golijov and Bernstein | Chicago News

Opera theater

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performs under Marin Alsop, Ravinia’s conductor, on July 30, 2022. (Courtesy of Ravinia)

It was a unique event at the Ravinia Festival on Saturday evening. And those lucky enough to hear the program’s two stunning masterpieces – Osvaldo Golijov’s “The Compass Rose” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphony No. 3 (kaddish)” – got what could very well be dubbed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Performed to stunning effect by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, along with the Chicago Children’s Choir and a brilliant assemblage of instrumental and vocal soloists, the concert was superbly conducted by Marin Alsop, Ravinia’s conductor. And in many ways, it was a remarkable synthesis of a wide range of international influences and stories of religious faith and pain.

Just consider the lineup of guest instrumentalists who joined the CSO for Golijov’s thrilling work in 2007 with its distinctive yet surprisingly hybrid five movements. They included virtuoso tours by David Krakauer on klezmer clarinet, Cristina Pato on gaita (Galician bagpipes), Kayhan Kalhour on kamanchen (an Iranian bowed instrument) and Michael Ward-Bergeman on accordion.

And that’s not all.

Joining them from Highland Park and the nearby community of Glencoe were players of several different shofars, the instrument made from rams’ horns that is traditionally sounded on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. .

I can’t think of another score that blends religious and cultural themes so brilliantly. And it’s clear that Golijov, the son of Romanian-Jewish immigrants who settled in the predominantly Catholic (and tango-soaked) country of Argentina, studied in Israel and the United States and has a knowledge of tones. from the Middle East, can magically weave all of these influences into the classic. musical forms too.

Quite the captivating musical hybrid, Golijov’s piece moved thrillingly from wild klezmer dancing, to a lyrical harp riff, to a rousing bagpipe interlude, to a brief xylophone sequence, to a whispering, prayer-like, wild drumming, rich use of strings, winds and horns, and more. A bewitching mix.

And to top it all off, amid the thunderous applause that greeted the performance of this piece, Golijov (who was named Ravinia’s first composer-in-residence in 2002, and was CSO’s Mead composer-in-residence from 2006 to 2008 ), arrived on stage to take his well-deserved salutes.

The CSO musicians were joined by members of the Chicago Children's Choir in a rendition of the The CSO musicians were joined by members of the Chicago Children’s Choir in a performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphony No. 3 (Kaddish)” on July 30, 2022. (Courtesy Ravinia)

The second half of the evening was devoted to Bernstein’s ‘Kaddish’ symphony, with a score and libretto created by the composer that involved a full orchestra and choir, a heavenly-voiced children’s choir and two soloists.

Crucial to this work are its many narrative segments, which were ably performed by the melodious-voiced Jaye Ladymore, the Chicago-based TV, film and theater actress who just completed a run in the Chicago production. Shakespeare Theater from “It Came from Outer”. Space.” Soprano Janai Brugger, who has performed on the stages of the Lyric Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and many others, added to the rich tones of the piece.

Kaddish is the hymn praising God that is recited during Jewish prayer services, and is of crucial importance as it is sung as part of funerals and mourning rituals. But in many ways, in addition to touting a heavenly power, Bernstein clearly used this work to argue with himself as he explored the complicated nature of a higher power that oversees the mortality and often painful destruction of life on Earth. Ultimately, however, he also manages to hone a loving reconciliation with the “fatherly” figure with these words: “Together we suffer, together we exist.” And forever will recreate.

Throughout the evening’s two devilishly difficult works, Alsop (who was mentored by Bernstein), supervised an impeccable and wonderfully dramatic interpretation of the music of the two grandiose theatrical composers.

A final note: if you regret missing this concert, take comfort in the fact that it was filmed live by PBS. Its release date has yet to be announced.

Follow Hedy Weiss on Twitter: @HedyWeissReview