With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s downtown Beethoven Festival going late into June, Ravinia has had to make due for its first weeks of programming without its longtime premier partner. In the past when this has happened, the North Shore Festival has experimented with residencies of other orchestras and chamber groups to pick up the slack, but this year classical programming gave way primarily to pop and jazz offerings instead for those opening weeks.
With the end of the Beethoven Festival and departing principal conductor Bernard Haitink’s moving farewell where after all of the PR rhetoric and awards were said and done, he characteristically and humbly chose to thank Beethoven “who had such a miserable life and gave us so many wondrous masterpieces.”
Meanwhile, Ravinia music director James Conlon is not to be outdone in his opening CSO summer concerts and is including a highlights program of the Los Angeles Opera’s first-ever Wagner “Ring” Cycle that he will finish conducting mere days before arriving here and which will feature soprano Christine Brewer as Brünnhilde and John Treleaven as Siegfried. Conlon only accepted the music directorship of the L.A. Opera from general director Placido Domingo with the understanding that it would become a “Wagner house,” and he has been true to his word, giving L.A. its first-ever performances of Wagner’s mammoth nineteen-hour multiple evening prologue and triptych. True, Ravinia will not have all of the techno paraphernalia and stagecraft that accompanies this production and this will only be a single evening of highlights (with surtitles), but the plus is that Conlon will have a far better house orchestra with the CSO, one of the world’s great Wagner orchestras, not to mention a better Brünnhilde.
The program will open with the rapturous Act III love duet that serves as the finale of “Siegfried,” music that Wagner labored over for nearly a dozen years and some of the most steamy and sensual music ever written. This will be followed by the all-orchestral “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” and “Siegfried’s Funeral March” from “Götterdämmerung” before the most famous ending in all of opera—where the expression “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings” comes from—Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene where she and her horse Grane ride into Siegfried’s huge funeral pyre and cleanse the Ring of its curse which is reclaimed by the Rhinemaidens. (Dennis Polkow)
June 30, 8pm, Ravinia Festival, Lake-Cook at Green Bay Road, Highland Park, (847)266-5100. $10-$25.