The Hershey Theatre, conceived in 1933 by noted philanthropist and chocolatier Milton S. Hershey, stands as an opulent tribute to the performing arts. Taking architectural cues from Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the foyer’s towering arches gleam with golden paint and crystal chandeliers. The blue-and-gold mosaic that leads to the main seating area is the masterwork of two German artists who spent two years on its construction. Once inside the theater, audiences might think they’ve stepped onto the streets of Venice thanks to the atmospheric ceiling, stonework facades, and gondoliers paddling them to their seats. ####Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Music has permeated the 800 manicured acres where the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has stood since 1969, when farmer Max Yasgur agreed to let love, peace, and harmony grow wild at the very first Woodstock festival. These days, the renowned outdoor venue and cultural center continues to attract the biggest acts in music to its pavilion stage. The open-air design ensures ample ventilation on the natural sloping lawn, and a roof protects up to 15,000 fans from inclement weather and the prying eyes of Cessna pilots.
Chicago Sinfonietta was already markedly different from its counterparts when it played its first notes in 1987. Its founder and conductor Paul Freeman wanted to create a symphony that actually reflected the community in which it existed. The ensemble he formed brought together musicians from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, who interpreted both classical pieces and forgotten compositions from composers of color. His concept proved successful—the symphony toured Europe, played the Kennedy Center twice, and produced 14 albums, all while tunefully demonstrating the universality of music.
Today, Chicago Sinfonietta continues to perform unique programs, and supports music education and professional development opportunities for members of underrepresented communities. Freeman retired from his post at the end of the 2011 season, passing the reins new music director Mei-Ann Chen, but his legacy lives on in the music of performers he helped get started, including classical-music legend Yo-Yo Ma.
In one sense, Bella Voce?s focus is singular: the human voice, in all its grandeur and intimacy. But beyond their choice of medium, the group?s repertoire knows know bounds. Since 1982, they?ve raised up their voices to deliver classic a cappella pieces, early music, and contemporary works with accompaniment from across the globe. They?ve also commissioned new works from Midwestern composers such as Rami Levin, Frank Ferko, and old farmer Dan from down the road, who sure can whistle. The most recent addition to Bella Voce is the Bella Voce Camerata. In placing just a single singer on each part, the Camerata specializes in pieces whose smaller scope and scale serves as an intimate alternative to the lusher arrangements Bella Voce is known for.
Anchoring one end of Millennium Park, Harris Theater for Music and Dance continues that landscape of cultural expansion and visual wonderment. The Theater partners with emerging and established performing arts organizations in order to help them build the infrastructure and artistic growth necessary for sustainability. Yet it also acts as a cultural beacon for Chicagoland, drawing in world-renowned performing artists and keeping traveling barbershop quartets from crashing into the shore.
When the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1988, it was a tightly knit ensemble consisting entirely of principals from the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Since then, it has blossomed into a collective of more than 200 professional Chicagoland musicians. But despite the increased size and bow-tie budget, the players have lost none of their precision or dynamic nature, prompting the Chicago Tribune to herald the group as ?one of the finest symphonic orchestras.?
Founded in 2011, the Chicago-based American Chamber Opera features an ensemble committed to singing full-length oratorios in English. Its productions resemble concerts more than traditional opera performances: the music takes center stage as the singers belt and emote in settings that evoke the world of the story with just a few well-placed details.