Sold out seats in the pavilion and star-struck spectators filling the lawn with blankets and chairs. Live music from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Children’s Choir, the Chicago Chorale and the Lakeside Singers. Ravinia Park, the home of performances ranging from Buddy Guy to Yo-Yo Ma, held a special concert for the people of Chicago this August that could rival those in Bayreuth, Germany. What makes this event interesting enough for an opera review? The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Howard Shore, the composer for the film, may not have intended for this event to take place outside at Ravinia, but the location was spot on! With the ents battling orcs at Isenguard, and much of the film spent strolling through the forest, this could not have been performed in a more appropriate location. The stage itself was filled with nearly two hundred performers, including Chicago Children’s Choir who managed to stay onstage throughout the entire three-hour film (good thing it wasn’t the extended edition).
Musically, it was stunning to hear this score performed live. Using composition tools from German opera composer Richard Wagner, Howard Shore made his mark on the Lord of the Rings score with many leitmotifs. He also decorated the orchestra with a full brass section, allowing the famous Chicago Brass to blast through the house, across the lawn and into the skies. The performers cleared the air with Shore’s famous melodies from the three-time Oscar award winning score.
As for the singing, overall it was lyrical and impressive. Singing Elvish could be considered bel canto, right? With an enchanting performance by soprano Kaitlyn Lusk and powerful polyphony from each of the Chicago choirs, the film magic was maintained from the beginning through the ending credits.
At Bayreuth, Wagner spoiled his patrons by showing his Ring Cycle over the course of a weekend, with frequent intermissions for food and drink between each new act. Seeing as it is a great tradition here in Chicago to bring one’s own feast to Ravinia, It could be said that we have done one better. With only one intermission and an afternoon outside in the sun, guests at Ravinia on Friday, August 16th enjoyed more than Frodo and Sam’s journey, they enjoyed a truly operatic experience whether they realized it or not.