Soprano Kathleen Battle has had a long connection to Chicago, going back to when she first began singing here as a virtual unknown at Ravinia in the early 1970s. Some of her earliest recordings were made here with James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and her last opera performance in the area was a Ravinia concert performance of Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore” with Luciano Pavarotti. Her Lyric Opera appearances have been few and far between, as Battle’s voice has never been a large one, but always a beautiful one. And while her diva displays of temperament are legendary—even leading to a firing and notorious ban from the Metropolitan Opera where even her old friend Levine could do little to help her—audiences never see that side of her. What will Battle sound like at this stage of her career? That is anyone’s guess, but she is returning to familiar territory in this ultra-rare area appearance with the Chicago Children’s Choir: holiday fare and spirituals. Traversing such crowd-pleasing repertoire that poses so little challenge to her technique and surrounded by multicultural singing children during the holiday season, here’s betting that Battle will not only look and sound like a dream, but will be on her very best behavior. (Dennis Polkow)
December 18, Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, (312)334-7777. 7:30pm. $45-$75.
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