When James Conlon became music director of the Ravinia Festival in 2005, he began a multi-year “Breaking the Silence” series to showcase music of composers who had been officially censured—and in most cases, later killed—by the Third Reich. Happily, this year’s subject, Kurt Weill, was astute enough to leave the country for Paris immediately after Hitler came to power in 1933, making his way to the United States two years later where he refused to speak German, corrected journalists who labeled him a German composer—”I am an American now”—and created an entirely new career on Broadway with innovative shows that not only constantly broke new ground but were loved by critics, performers and the public alike; several even became hit films as well. Weill’s songs became an essential part of the Great American Songbook and many became enormous hits by singers of all genres. This concert looks at both Weill’s unparalleled German and American music legacies, including as it does a rare complete concert performance of his last collaboration with Bertolt Brecht, 1933’s “Die sieben Todsündern” (“The Seven Deadly Sins”) with Patti LuPone and Hudson Shad and the “Symphonic Nocturne” from his 1940 Broadway show “Lady in the Dark” which ironically, was put together by legendary Broadway orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett despite the fact that Weill was the only Broadway composer who insisted on doing his own orchestrations. James Conlon conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and also participates in a 6pm Martin Theatre pre-concert discussion about Weill with Kim Kowalke, president of the Kurt Weill Foundation. (Dennis Polkow)
August 8 at Ravinia Festival, Lake-Cook & Green Bay Roads, Highland Park, (847)266-5000; $10-$95, 7:30pm.
Dennis Polkow is an award-winning veteran journalist, critic, author, broadcaster and educator. He made his stage debut at age five, was a child art prodigy and began playing keyboards in clubs at the age of fourteen. He holds degrees in music theory, composition, religious studies and philosophy from DePaul University in Chicago. Polkow spent his early years performing and recording in rock and jazz bands while concertizing as a classical pianist, organist and harpsichordist and composing, arranging and producing for other artists. As a scholar, Polkow has published and lectured extensively and taught at several colleges and universities in various departments. As an actor, narrator and consultant, Polkow has been involved with numerous films, plays, broadcasts and documentaries. As a journalist, Polkow helped co-create the experiential Chicago Musicale and Spotlight, the award-winning tabloid arts and entertainment section of the Press Publications chain of newspapers, which he later edited. He also created and ran the nationally recognized journalism program at Oakton College and was faculty advisor to its award-winning student newspaper; many former students went on to major media careers, including Channel Awesome’s the Nostalgia Critic. Polkow’s research, interviews, features, reviews and commentaries have appeared across national and international media and he has corresponded from the Middle East, Asia and Africa for the Chicago Tribune. Contact: email@example.com