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Marin Alsop Is Appointed First Chief Conductor and Curator of Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, Starting This Summer

Marin Alsop has been appointed Chief Conductor and Curator of Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, where she looks forward to launching her tenure this summer. The new position was created specifically for Alsop, who will be the first to hold the title in the festival’s 116-year history. Over the course of her two-year appointment, she will curate and conduct two weeks of concerts by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), whose summer residency has been hosted by Ravinia since 1936. Her upcoming highlights with the orchestra include programs celebrating legendary women and the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women’s suffrage.

Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman says:

“Marin Alsop is a consummate musician, whose varied experience throughout the world – from São Paulo to California, from Baltimore to Vienna – is unsurpassed. The fact that she enjoys and excels in the standard repertoire, new work, jazz and musical theater, makes her a perfect fit for Ravinia, where we cross genres on a daily basis. She gets everything that Ravinia is about – the tradition, the unique audience, the eclectic mix of music, the atmosphere and environment, the El Sistema approach to music education, and our very insightful Ravinia family of volunteers, trustees and staff – and she is unfazed by the vagaries of working out of doors!”

This year marks the festival’s last season with Kauffman at the helm. Don Civgin, Chairman of the Ravinia Festival Board of Trustees, says:

“In programming his final season at Ravinia, Welz advocated to create this role for Marin – a conductor of great global acclaim who also enjoys an intimate connection to Ravinia – to maintain consistency, through this transitional period, of the festival’s high artistic standards and creativity in booking the eclectic array of artists that Ravinia has proudly presented throughout its colorful history.”

Alsop responds:

“I’ve been involved in some extraordinary experiences at Ravinia, and have felt a real connection to the audiences, trustees, Women’s Board and staff – and of course, there’s nothing like conducting the inimitable Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I’m certain this appointment promises even more extraordinary experiences to come.”

As the Chief Conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony and Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Alsop has earned myriad honors, including a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship, the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award, and the prestigious Association of British Orchestras Award. Throughout this year’s celebrations of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, she will lead “All Together: A Global Ode to Joy”; the project, presented in partnership with Carnegie Hall, sees her conducting eleven orchestras on six continents in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with new texts and supplementary commissions to amplify the work’s message and relevance to each local community. She is very involved in music education, using an El Sistema-based method similar to the one with which Ravinia creates student orchestras through its “Reach Teach Play” programs. As the final protégé of Leonard Bernstein, Alsop was appointed in 2018 to curate the festival’s multi-season celebration of the great American composer-conductor. Now, in Welz Kauffman’s final season, that role has been expanded, enabling her to help guide Ravinia’s musical future.

Kauffman and Alsop share a long history. It was he who first booked her to conduct the New York Philharmonic in 1999 and who first introduced her to Chicago audiences at Ravinia in 2002, when she led the Chicago Symphony in works by Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, John Adams and John Corigliano. She subsequently led the CSO at Chicago’s Symphony Center, and over the past two years, she has collaborated with Kauffman to program a collection of intimate and large-scale Bernstein concerts that proved popular with audiences and critics alike. She achieved especial success with the rarely performed music theater work Mass, performing it with the orchestra in both 2018 and 2019; captured live at Ravinia, their account of the work will air as a national television special this summer.

Kauffman comments:

“Alsop is known as a great colleague, serious of intent, brilliant, and fun to work with and for. She has great respect for the Chicago Symphony, and our Ravinia audience has noted frequently that it feels to them like a two-way street between this most prestigious of ensembles and the Maestra, who fits in so well, yet asserts her own informed point of view.”

Alsop’s inaugural Ravinia season with the CSO: summer 2020

Shostakovich and Slava!: Alsop conducts a program dedicated to the Russian composers who influenced Bernstein. Its centerpiece is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, the “Leningrad” Symphony, which the Chicago Tribune redubbed the “Lennygrad” Symphony after Bernstein conducted the CSO in a “euphoric” performance of the work in 1988. The program also features Slava!, the overture Bernstein composed for his friend Rostropovich’s first season leading the National Symphony Orchestra in 1977, and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with Midori, a protégé of Isaac Stern, whose own centennial falls this year (July 10).

All-Rachmaninoff Evening: Alsop leads some of Rachmaninoff’s most beloved works, including his Vocalise for orchestra, Piano Concerto No. 3, and Symphonic Dances (July 11).

Legendary Women’s Voices: Buzzed-about singer-actor Cynthia Erivo – star of Broadway’s The Color Purple revival and the big screen’s Harriet, Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale – makes her Ravinia and CSO debuts with a salute to the strong role models who inspired generations of singers. Conducted by Alsop and hosted by Ravinia’s Women’s Board, this gala benefit is the season’s only concert fundraiser to support the not-for-profit music festival and its “Reach Teach Play” education programs (July 12).

Voices of Light: Inspired by Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, Richard Einhorn’s 1994 oratorio will be performed live, in its CSO and Ravinia premieres, as the silent film is screened. Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920, the year American women won the vote. Josephine Lee and her ensemble, Vocality, first booked for Ravinia’s Mass, join singers from the festival’s Steans Music Institute to form the evening’s chorus. Alsop, who counts the work among her signature pieces, will conduct the performance (July 16).

An Evening of Variations: Under Alsop’s leadership, Jorge Federico Osorio performs Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Rhapsody on a program with Brahms’s Haydn Variations and Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, the composer’s celebrated musical sketchbook of his friends (July 17).

Click here to download high-resolution photos.

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© 21C Media Group, February 2020

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