Here’s something you’re not likely to see at Lyric Opera anytime soon: Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky as the ugly hunchback dwarf Rigoletto in Verdi’s opera of the same name. Hvorostovsky’s matinee-idol looks won him a spot as one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” but in a concert version of the opera, he won’t even have to bend over while he is singing. We haven’t seen Hvorostovsky here since his belated-but-memorable performances in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” at Lyric Opera a couple of seasons ago, but his rare artistry is always welcome and illuminating. And though Verdi may not be the first thing you would associate with Hvorostovsky’s unique voice, the first role he ever did here was Germont in “La traviata.” Cuban-American soprano Eglise Gutierrez is Gilda, Italian tenor Stefano Secco is the Duke of Mantua and James Conlon conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In a shameful cost-cutting move on Ravinia’s part, the first-rate Chicago Symphony Chorus is being sidelined for the far-inferior amateur Apollo Chorus. Hvorostovsky will also give a rare area recital of all-Russian repertoire with pianist Ivari Ilja on August 18 in Ravinia’s intimate Martin Theatre that includes rarely heard songs by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Nikolai Medtner. (Dennis Polkow)
August 15 (opera), 7:30pm, and August 18 (recital), 8pm, Ravinia Festival, Lake-Cook & Green Bay, Highland Park, (847)266-5000.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org