As part of his ongoing commitment to bring classical music into all communities, Riccardo Muti returned to the Illinois Youth Center in west suburban Warrenville for a recital Sept. 24 featuring CSO musicians Alexander Hanna and Charles Vernon, and members of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center.
More than 30 young men and women attended the concert, Muti’s fifth at Warrenville and his ninth such appearance over all since becoming CSO music director in 2010. Presented by the CSO’s Negaunee Music Institute, the concerts grew out of Muti’s vision to share music’s inspirational power with at-risk or incarcerated youth.
In past seasons, Muti also has visited the Illinois Youth Center-Chicago in fall 2014 and 2016, and the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in fall 2012 and spring 2013. In September 2015, the Evanston-based Juvenile Justice Initiative honored Maestro Muti for his time, effort and commitment to young inmates.
For this concert, Muti offered piano accompaniment as Ryan Center soprano Diana Newman, tenor Mario Rojas and contralto Lauren Decker sang arias from operas by Bellini, Donizetti, Offenbach and Verdi. In addition, Alexander Hanna, CSO principal bass, and Charles Vernon, CSO bass trombone, offered solos and duets on such varied works as the Henry Eccles’ Sonata in G Minor and Antônio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova standard “The Girl From Ipanema.”
After last season’s recital at the Illinois Youth Center-Chicago, bass-baritone Eric Owens, who appeared with Muti and mezzo Joyce DiDonato, told WFMT-FM: “I always carry experiences like this with me. There’s nothing like music to spread love. Music can fill us with hope and vision. I am always happy to be a part of Maestro Muti’s mission to bring music to where the people are.”
The CSO’s music director position has been endowed in perpetuity by a gift from the Zell Family Foundation.