Hey! Let's Put On an Opera | The Reader's Guide Feature | Chicago Reader

Hey! Let's Put On an Opera 

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A week before the Ravinia Festival premiere of Rachmaninoff's opera Francesca da Rimini, director Michael Halberstam wasn't exactly sure what he had. "We've only got two and a half hours of rehearsal time," the moonlighting artistic director of Glencoe's Writers' Theatre said. "You've heard of meatball surgery? We won't know until Friday afternoon when we see it all in place." The opera will be sung in a concert setting by soprano Marina Mescheriakova, tenor Vinson Cole, and bass Sergei Leiferkus with other soloists and the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, and played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach. If all goes according to plan, the action will be pantomimed by veteran actors Susan Hart, Larry Yando, and Martin Yurek during lulls in the vocal performance. "The music is so exquisite, I'm just trying to create a physical sur-title," said Halberstam. The plot, drawn from Dante's Inferno, is the story of a young woman destined to marry one brother but fatally attracted to another. It'll be presented without sets or costumes, though Halberstam was thinking about putting the chorus in masks. "Anything that doesn't work, the maestro and I will cut on Friday," he said. "We'll look and say, 'Gosh, it's a treat,' or, 'I'm really interfering with the piece,' and then I'll just stand in the back and drink champagne and enjoy it with everyone else." Francesca da Rimini begins at 8 on Saturday, August 10, in the Pavilion; a preconcert lecture starts at 7:15 in the Santa Fe Tent. Pavilion tickets range from $20 to $40; lawn tickets are $10. Ravinia Festival is located at Lake Cook and Green Bay Rds. in Highland Park. Call 847-266-5100 for tickets and more information.

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