RICCARDO MUTI RETURNS FOR FEBRUARY RESIDENCY FEATURING A PROGRAM OF WORKS TO HONOR AND REMEMBER
Muti Leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Mozart’s Requiem Featuring Soprano Benedetta Torre, Contralto Sara Mingardo and Bass Mika Kares in their CSO Debuts and a Return Appearance for Tenor Saimir Pirgu
Muti Conducts the first CSO Performances of Pulitzer Prize-Winning American Composer William Schuman’s Ninth Symphony (Le fosse Ardeatine) as Part of Special Observance of the 75th Anniversary of the WWII Tragedy Presented in Collaboration with the Consulate General of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute in Chicago
FEBRUARY 21–23, 2019
CHICAGO—Music Director Riccardo Muti returns to Chicago in February for his third residency of the 2018/19 season to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and Chorus in a program that returns to the season-long theme A Time for Reflection—A Message of Peace with subscription concerts on Thursday, February 21, 2019, 8:00 p.m., Friday, February 22, 2019, 1:30 p.m., and Saturday, February 23, 2019, 8:00 p.m. The program includes the CSO’s first performances of Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer William Schuman’s Symphony No. 9 (Le fosse Ardeatine) in a year that marks the 75th anniversary of this World War II tragedy in Italy. Ambassador of Italy to the U.S., H.E. Armando Varricchio, will be in attendance on Thursday, February 21. In collaboration with the Consulate General of Italy and Italian Cultural Institute in Chicago, the CSOA presents a special companion photo exhibit as well as a February 21 preconcert lecture on this subject with Federico Rampini, U.S. Bureau Chief for the national Italian newspaper La Repubblica. The program concludes with Mozart’s Requiem featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus prepared by Chorus Director Duain Wolfe with soloists soprano Benedetta Torre, contralto Sara Mingardo and bass Mika Kares in their CSO debuts, and tenor Saimir Pirgu. Muti also leads an open rehearsal for invited senior and community groups and members of the CSOA’s African American Network and Latino Alliance on February 20.
The CSO’s performances and the special activities connected to the observance of the 75th anniversary of the massacre at Le fosse Ardeatine in 2019 have been recognized by Sergio Mattarella, President of the Italian Republic. The Italian President extended his gratitude to Music Director Riccardo Muti and the musicians of the CSO in a special message saying “[this] is indeed an evocative and meaningful choice. The Symphony, in fact, pays tribute to the victims of that heinous act of terror, while also honoring a composer of exceptional musical and human sensitivity and his artistic legacy.”
“We need to ensure that these horrific crimes are not forgotten. We cannot remain silent. The photo exhibition and Schuman’s touching symphony, conducted by Maestro Muti, are a way to speak up and preserve the memory of that tragedy for future generations” said Ambassador Varricchio.
The program opens with William Schuman’s Symphony No. 9 (Le fosse Ardeatine). One of the composer’s few programmatic works, Symphony No. 9 was written following Schuman’s visit to the Ardeatine Caves, the burial site of the victims of one of Italy’s most infamous massacres during World War II. “The mood of my symphony… is directly related to the emotions engendered by this visit,” wrote the composer in the program notes to the work’s 1968 premiere. “One must come to terms with the past in order to build a future. But in this exercise I am a foe of forgetting. Whatever future my symphony may have, wherever it is performed, audiences will remember.” Symphony No. 9 is performed without pause but with three distinct sections. The austere, contemplative Anteludium opens the piece, leading into the fast-paced Offertorium, which comprises the majority of the work. This middle section explores a variety of moods, from playful to dramatic, before reaching a sonorous culmination at the end of the movement. The ensuing Postludium, characterized by “an emotional climate which sums up the work,” brings the piece to a reflective conclusion.
Following the gripping intensity of the Schuman symphony is Mozart’s Requiem. The powerful work attains fiery heights in the earth-quaking choral incantations of the Rex Tremendae and Confutatis, while the serene vocal quartet of the Recordare offers a promise of peace amid poignant declarations of grief. Despite being left incomplete at the time of the composer’s tragically early death it remains one of Mozart’s most inventive and characteristically unique works for its innovative approaches to counterpoint and orchestration.
Soprano Benedetta Torre makes her CSO debut in these performances, having previously sung the Priestess in Verdi’s Aida under Riccardo Muti at the Salzburg Festival in 2017. Contralto Sara Mingardo also makes her CSO debut in these performances. Tenor Saimir Pirgu returns for the first time since his appearance under Muti as Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff with the CSO at Symphony Center in April 2016. Finnish bass Mika Kares, who has distinguished himself as a concert soloist in recent seasons in performances of Rossini’s Stabat Mater with the Munich Radio Orchestra and Mozart’s Requiem with the Vienna Philharmonic, also makes his CSO debut in these performances.
In collaboration with the Consulate General of Italy and Italian Cultural Institute in Chicago, the CSOA will present special related activities connected to the performances of William Schuman’s Symphony No. 9 (Le fosse Ardeatine). Prior to the Thursday, February 21 performance, there will be a special preconcert lecture from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. in Orchestra Hall moderated by guest speaker Federico Rampini, U.S. Bureau Chief of national Italian newspaper La Repubblica, in conversation with Anthony Cardoza, Professor of History at Loyola University. Mr. Rampini will also participate in a book-signing event at the Italian Cultural Institute in Chicago on Wednesday, February 20. More information about the book signing can be found at iicchicago.esteri.it
In addition, beginning February 18, a special photo exhibit about the Ardeatine massacre will be on display in the first floor lobby of the Symphony Center Rotunda. The exhibit is presented by the University of Rome, "Tor Vergata" — Department of History, Cultural Heritage, Education and Society.
The CSO’s season-long theme— A Time for Reflection, A Message of Peace—connects to programming that seeks ways to honor the victims of war and celebrate the triumph of the human spirit through the healing and transformative power of music. More information is available at https://csosoundsandstories.org/category/a-season-of-peace/
Following his November CSO performances of Verdi’s Requiem, Muti traveled to Naples to the Teatro di San Carlo, the world’s oldest continually operating opera house, to lead Mozart’s Così fan tutte directed by his daughter, the acclaimed director Chiara Muti. The highly anticipated return to Teatro di San Carlo – Muti’s first time leading the company in 34 years – was met with wide critical and popular acclaim, including an unprecedented 10 minutes of applause following the opening night performance. Il Giornale Italia praised Muti for his “light touch, typical of the Neapolitan master” and Corriere della Serra called the production “a smashing success.” Spain’s El Pais declared that “[Muti’s] version of the opera materializes, now clearer than ever, that vindication of the everyday on the stage, where we smile to cope with the tears of life.”
In December, Muti led the Vienna Philharmonic in performances at Musikverein and on tour throughout Germany with stops in Munich, Berlin and Cologne. The program included Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 and Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1 with Karl-Heinz Schütz, principal flute of the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera, as soloist.
Muti joined the CSO in Taiwan in January 2019 to launch the Orchestra’s ninth tour to Asia and their second tour to Asia together since Muti’s appointment as music director in 2010. The 2019 Asia tour included return appearances for Muti and the CSO at the National Concert Hall in Taipei, Taiwan; the Oriental Arts Center in Shanghai, China; and the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China. Tour repertoire included Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade, and Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 2. The tour also included a multi-day residency in Tokyo, marking a return appearance for Muti and the CSO at the Bunka Kaikan. The residency in Tokyo included performances of Verdi’s Requiem with soprano Vittoria Yeo, mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona, tenor Francesco Meli, bass Dmitry Belosselskiy, and the Tokyo Opera Singers chorus. Muti and the Orchestra completed the tour with a February 4 performance in Osaka, marking the debut appearance for Muti and the CSO together at the city’s Festival Hall and the Orchestra’s first performance at the venue since 2003.