Ravinia announces details of CSO’s 88th season at the festival

Chief Conductor Marin Alsop leads the annual Chicago Symphony Orchestra residency in its 88th summer season at Ravinia, Breaking Barriers Festival celebrating women leaders in music and space.

Patrick Gipson

The Ravinia Festival announced its 2024 classical programming featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Orchestra has been in residence at the historic summer venue nearly every summer since 1936.

Between July 12 and Aug. 18, the Orchestra performs 14 concerts in diverse and engaging programs that feature composers ranging from Mozart to Mancini. There will be three weeks of concerts with Ravinia’s Chief Conductor Marin Alsop in addition to programs with guest conductors, many of whom make their podium debuts leading the CSO.

In addition, the CSO performs at the annual Breaking Barriers Festival (July 26-27), which this year celebrates women leaders in music and space. James Conlon, the current music director of the Los Angeles Opera and Ravinia’s music director from 2005 to 2015, conducts semi-stage productions of Mozart’s Idomeneo.

The lineup (all concerts are in the pavilion):

July 12 – The CSO opens its 88th summer season at Ravinia with Alsop and soloists soprano Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha and pianist Michelle Cann. In an evening of American music, the orchestra opens with Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring followed by James P. Johnson’s Charleston, highlighting this early jazz piano leader’s influence. Rangwanasha performs Samuel Barber’s evocative portrait of a small boy in the American South, Knoxville: Summer of 1915. The program ends with a celebration of the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with Cann at the keyboard in her CSO debut.

July 13 – South African cellist-composer Abel Selaocoe joins Alsop and debuts with the CSO performing his Four Spirits. It is juxtaposed with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and its exploration of triumph over adversity.

July 19 – Conductor Ted Sperling joins the CSO with special guest vocalists to celebrate two iconic songwriters, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.

July 20 – Alsop and the CSO take the stage for Gustav Mahler’s final major work for orchestra, Symphony No. 9. 

July 21 – Winner of the gold medal at the International Chopin Competition, Japanese pianist Hayato Sumino makes his Ravinia and CSO debuts performing Fryderyk Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1. In the second half of the program, Alsop explores symphonic storytelling at the turn of the 20th century, leading the CSO in Richard Strauss’s tone poem Don Juan and Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé (Suite No. 2).

July 25 – Felix Mendelssohn’s beloved violin concerto, played by Ravinia Steans Music Institute (RSMI) alumnus Augustin Hadelich, is in the spotlight. Also featured on the program, led by Alsop, are Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. Conductor Alena Hron, the 2024–26 Taki Alsop Fellow, guests on the podium to lead Walker’s Icarus in Orbit.

July 26 – The centerpiece of Breaking Barriers 2024 is a space-themed concert complete with visuals and introductions with NASA specialists. Alsop conducts the orchestra in Holst’s The Planets, followed by a suite from Falkenberg’s The Moons Symphony. Audiences will see science come alive and hear from planetary scientists, including Astronaut Nicole Stott together with the composer, as they discuss how the symphony offers new perspectives for humanity to contemplate our home in the cosmos.

July 28 – Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship alumna Carolyn Kuan leads this year’s Tchaikovsky Spectacular, complete with Ravinia’s signature cannons in the 1812 Overture. Making her CSO debut, she opens the program with the complete music from the first act of The Nutcracker. Desirée Ruhstrat also makes her CSO debut as the soloist for Tchaikovsky’s cherished Violin Concerto.

August 2 – Former Taki Alsop Conducting Fellow Valentina Peleggi, who “conducts with marvelous flair and precision” (The Guardian), returns to Ravinia and the CSO following a guest appearance during last summer’s Breaking Barriers Festival to collaborate with esteemed pianist Jorge Federico Osorio on Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. Peleggi will also lead Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.

August 4 – Music director, conductor, and arranger Kevin Stites explores the music of legendary performer and film composer Henry Mancini. Curated and hosted by actor Rob Lindley, “Mancini at 100: The Music of Henry Mancini, from the big screen, to the small screen, to the stage and beyond” features Broadway vocalists Jessie Mueller (Waitress, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), Norm Lewis (The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables), and Karen Mason (Sunset Boulevard), all three making their Ravinia and CSO debuts.

August 9 & 11 – The CSO delves into operatic repertory as a semi-staging of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Idomeneo is conducted by Los Angeles Opera (and former Ravinia) Music Director James Conlon in the Martin Theatre. The work, set in Crete in 1200 BCE and telling a story from the Trojan War, shines light on a talented group of singers. Starring are tenor Matthew Polenzani as the Greek king Idomeneo, mezzo-soprano and RSMI alumna Emily D’Angelo as Idamante, soprano Andrea Carroll as Princess Ilia, and soprano Alexandria Shiner as Princess Elettra.

August 10 – James Conlon will lead an all-Mozart program with the CSO in the festival’s pavilion between the opera performances. The program will feature both of the composer’s G minor symphonies — the Little No. 25, K. 183, and the Great No. 40, K. 550 — along with the Violin Concerto No. 5, performed by soloist James Ehnes.

August 18 – Conductor Jonathan Rush, a frequent Ravinia guest in recent seasons and former assistant to Alsop, returns to the CSO podium. Chicago native Rachel Barton Pine takes the stage with Rush and the orchestra for José White Lafitte’s Violin Concerto and Niccolò Paganini’s La Campanella.