Fall marks the beginning of opera and orchestra season, a time of year when you can get dressed up and see world-class talent take the stage in downtown institutions. There's also classical music to be heard in places you might not expect, like museums and jazz clubs. Take a look at some of the best classical and opera shows in Chicago this fall—and don't forget to check out our full lists of concerts in Chicago.
Fall 2016 classical and opera
Celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of opera season at the annual Stars of the Lyric Opera concert in Millennium Park. Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s music director, leads an orchestra and soloist through a program that features excerpts from the upcoming season's repertoire of Carmen, The Magic Flute, Eugene Onegin and Lucia di Lammermoor. Pack a picnic and settle in for an evening of breathtaking high notes.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra 2016/17 season opens with selections by Mussorgsky, Strauss and Bruckner, conducted by Riccardo Muti. The evening begins with Mussorgsky's moody "A Night on Bald Mountain," followed by Strauss's "Don Juan" and Bruckner's Symphony No. 7.
The Lyric Opera launches its performance of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle, the ambitious 15-hour epic that comprises four operas (one will be staged each year through 2019). The 2016/17 season opens with Das Rheingold, which introduces the Rhinemaidens, who guard magical gold that can be transformed into a powerful ring. When a dwarf named Alberich steals some of the gold, a conflict between gods and mortals is ignited. David Pountney directs this new production while Sir Andrew Davis conducts the sweeping score.
There are plenty of music festivals in Chicago that showcase rock bands, EDM acts, rappers and jazz musicians, but the city's vibrant contemporary classical scene is often overlooked. The brand new Ear Taxi Festival seeks to change this, serving up six days of new music at venues like the Harris Theatre, Constellation and the Chicago Cultural Center. The lineup includes 25 Chicago-based acts—such as Third Coast Percussion and Spektral Quartet—performing pieces by more than 70 composers. The schedule is arranged so that performances don't overlap, so go ahead and treat yourself to a new music marathon.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra presents the world premiere of Australian composer Carl Vine's trombone concerto "Five Hallucinations," conducted by James Gaffigan and featuring CSO trombonist Michael Mulcahy. The program also includes Prokofiev's "Cinderella," an orchestra interpretation of the classic fairy tale.
One of the most famous bel canto operas, Lucia di Lammermoor tells the tales of Lucia and her star-crossed lover Edgardo. Like an Italian Romeo and Juliet, the story takes a tragic turn, setting the stage for heartbreaking arias filled with breathtaking high notes. This opera is presented in Italian with projected English subtitles.
Comprised of members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Meridian String Quartet celebrate the 125th anniversary of Prokofiev's birth with a performance of his String Quartet No. 2, backed by a Russian photomontage.
Acclaimed violinist Robert McDuffie teams up with his childhood friend, R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, to perform a new composition that combines rock band instrumentation with a string orchestra. The program, which also features arrangements by David Mallamud, should appeal to fans of classical music and contemporary pop.
Clocking in at nearly five hours, this operatic adaptation of Virgil's poem Aeneid is every bit as epic as the Greek legends it's inspired by. Rarely performed because of its expansive, five-act structure, Les Troyens begins with the familiar tale of the Trojan Horse and expands upon the heroes and tragedies of the Trojan War. Performed in French with projected English subtitles, this lengthy opera is accompanied by two intermissions.