Category Archives: Poetry

LYRIC OPERA’S ROMEO AND JULIET: Swashbuckling Beauty

Charles Gounod’s opera, Romeo and Juliet,  has a long and important relationship with Chicago. When the Auditorium Theatre premiered its very first opera on December 10, 1889, Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet was the choice. The production starred Adelina Patti, the woman whom Verdi called “the finest singer who ever lived”. Ms. Patti received $3000.00 and […]

Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Othello: The Dark against the Light, Prose against Poetry

What is particularly, and shamefully, interesting to us now is the fact that a black man should be acceptable, to an audience inclined to xenophobia, as a great leader of men. Othello’s colour had no connotations of enslavable inferiority. There were great negroes about in those days (or Moors – Moor being a generic term […]

ROBERT JOFFREY’S THE NUTCRACKER: Christmas in the Shadow of Death

Chicago’s Auditorium Theater is the perfect setting to view Robert Joffery’s jarring, beautiful, and profound interpretation of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker danced brilliantly by his namesake company, and played wonderfully by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra. Adler and Sullivan’s magnificent theater interior was meant “to express growth and decadence as the two great cyclic […]

MADAMA BUTTERFLY: Robert Wilson’s Triumph

  No one has represented American avant-garde performance more faithfully for over fifty years than Robert Wilson. But Winston Churchill noted, “To each there comes in their life time a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents.” For […]

CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER: A TEMPEST FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS

In his classic Prefaces to Shakespeare, Actor/Director Harley Granville Barker, reveals, in passing, an important secret about the theater: “A play, in fact, as we find it written, is a magic spell.” “The magic of the theater” is a phrase often bandied about, usually meaning “theater is wonderful.” But the phrase contains an important idea: […]

RING OF FIRE: An American Epic on Stage

When Richard Maltby, Jr. was ready to open his new work, Ring of Fire, in 2005, he sensed he had created something important: “It’s almost a mythic American tale—of growing up in simple, dirt-poor surroundings in the heartland of America, leaving home, traveling on wings of music, finding love, misadventure, success, faith, redemption, and the […]

OLD WICKED SONGS: “Joy and Sorrow”

Following its debut at Louisville’s 1996 Human Festival of Plays, Jon Marans’ two-character play Old Wicked Songs went on to a string of productions culminating in a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. By 1999 Chicago had its first production of Old Wicked Songs at the Apple Tree Theater, starring Hill Street Blues’ Daniel J. Travanti. […]

PERICLES: “What pageantry, what feats, what shows!”

To paraphrase Emerson, a great work of theatre is the lengthened shadow of one man’s great imagination. His character determines the character of the production.The great work of theater I have in mind is the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s current production of William Shakespeare’s Pericles Prince of Tyre. The great imagination I have in mind belongs […]

DON GIOVANNI: A Lyric Opera Triumph

Chicago’s great writer Saul Bellow loved the Lyric Opera. In 1979 he wrote a preface to a celebration of the opera company in which he quoted long-time Chicago drama critic, and opera enthusiast, Claudia Cassidy: “Without the Lyric,” she tells us, “Chicago would be underprivileged. A city, she continues, “is more than tall buildings, crowded […]

A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol: Burlesque is Back and the Audience Loves It!

Charles Dickens was an enthusiastic patron of burlesque; he noted, “the sacred lamp of burlesque” is “always crammed”. No, the author of A Christmas Carol wasn’t a fancier of striptease clubs. The term burlesque originally denoted a form of theatre, now almost extinct. Shadows of this, the greatest popular entertainment, may be seen in reruns […]