Composer birthdays are cause for celebration

Fall Preview Classical

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Chicago's fall classical music season will be dominated by the year's big composer anniversaries: the birthday bicentennials of composers Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, and the centenary of Benjamin Britten. The most essential of these commemorative events are to be found below. And listeners whose musical tastes extend beyond the birthday boys will find plenty of other fare worth checking out amid the autumn bounty.

Beethoven Festival: "LOVE 2013": The International Beethoven Project's annual multidisciplinary celebration will be bigger than ever this year, comprising more than 100 events (including some 60 musical performances) that span classical and new music, visual art, fashion, literature and educational programs. Among the 37 world premieres will be classical and rock bagatelles inspired by Beethoven's iconic Fifth Symphony. Artists representing a dozen countries will join pianist and festival director George Lepauw for the nine-day mega-fest, including German composer-conductor Matthias Pintscher, who will direct Bach's "St. John Passion" and Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony in the opening and closing concerts, respectively. Now-Sept. 15 at Joy Faith Knapp Music Center, Merit School of Music, 30 S. Peoria St., and other locations; $30-$300 at 312-772-5821 or

Baroque Band: The Chicago period-instrument ensemble is farming out its four programs to guest music directors in Garry Clarke's absence this season. First up will be the celebrated British early-music pioneer, violinist Simon Standage, who will survey the Baroque concerto from Torelli to Bach and beyond. Sept. 18-21, various venues; $15-$35 at 312-235-2368 or

Chicago Opera Theater: COT is closing its 2013 season with an early Verdi rarity, "Giovanna d'Arco" ("Joan of Arc"), which has never before been performed in the city. Soprano Suzan Hanson will tackle the vocally formidable title role in a new production by director David Schweizer that promises to be very much in the new COT mold: provocative and edgy. Francesco Milioto will conduct Chicago's New Millennium Orchestra. Sept. 21-29 at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive; $36-$125 at 312-704-8414 or

Riccardo Muti and "Macbeth": This fall the music director will be favoring Chicago Symphony Orchestra audiences with four programs of music by his beloved Verdi, none more highly anticipated than this concert version of the opera "Macbeth." His cast includes several artists new to Chicago, including baritone Luca Salsi as the murderous Scottish thane and soprano Tatiana Serjan as the ruthless Lady Macbeth. Who could resist the opportunity to hear today's foremost Verdi interpreter presiding over this masterpiece? Sept. 28-Oct. 6 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $35-$278 at 312-294-3000 or

Mariinsky Orchestra: Valery Gergiev, artistic and general director of the storied Russian ensemble (formerly known as the Kirov Orchestra), seldom does anything by halves. And so, for Mariinsky's return to Orchestra Hall, the maestro and his musicians will present all three of Stravinsky's early ballet masterpieces — "The Firebird," "Petrushka" and "The Rite of Spring." Oct. 2 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $27-$195 at 312-294-3000,

Britten and more Britten: The University of Chicago Presents series is putting on six concerts of Benjamin Britten's instrumental and vocal works within five weeks. Performers include the Jupiter, Pacifica and Spektral quartets and the British viol consort Fretwork. Not to be outdone, the Chicago Chamber Musicians is prominently featuring Britten's music in the first three programs of its season. U of C Presents: Oct. 4-Nov. 8 at Mandel Hall and Logan Center for the Arts; most concerts are $35, $5 for students at 773-702-2787 or Chicago Chamber Musicians: Sept. 22-23, Oct. 13-14, Nov. 3-4, various venues; $35-$45 at 312-819-5800 or

Verdi's "Otello": Move over, Muti and the CSO. Lyric Opera is launching its season with a Verdi blockbuster of its own: a revival of the Peter Hall production of "Otello" first given here in 2001. Tenor Johan Botha will sing the title role, with soprano Ana Maria Martinez making her role debut as the ill-fated Desdemona and bass-baritone Falk Struckmann as the villainous Iago. Bertrand de Billy conducts, with Ashley Dean directing. Oct. 5-Nov. 2 at Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; $34-$229 at 312-332-2244 or

Muti and the Verdi Requiem: On the exact 200th anniversary of Verdi's birth, the maestro will lead soloists, his CSO and the Chicago Symphony Chorus in a one-time-only performance of the composer's stirring ecclesiastical opera. Those listeners who are unable to secure tickets will be able to catch a free, live simulcast beamed to the big screen at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. The event also will be streamed live online as well as on-demand following the performance. Oct. 10 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $40-$325 at 312-294-3000 or

New World Symphony: America's orchestral academy and its music director, Michael Tilson Thomas, make their Harris Theater debut with an unusual, multimedia adventure. The noted director/designer/video artist Netia Jones will create a video/visual installation to accompany a performance of Italian composer Niccolo Castiglioni's "Inverno In-ver." The program also holds Stravinsky's ballet with song, "Pulcinella," with soloists from the Music Institute of Chicago and Chicago Opera Theater. Oct. 19 at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive; $30-$95 at 312-334-7777 or

Wagner's "Parsifal": Lyric Opera's first new production of the season promises to wrap up the company's homage to the Wagner bicentennial in musical splendor. The highly regarded British director John Caird will stage the composer's final music drama, with sets and costumes by Johan Engels. Tenor Paul Groves will take on the title role for the first time anywhere, with baritone Thomas Hampson as Amfortas, bass Kwangchul Youn as Gurnemanz, mezzo-soprano Daveda Karanas as Kundry and baritone Tomas Tomasson as Klingsor. Lyric music director Andrew Davis conducts. Nov. 9-29 at Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; $34-$229 at 312-332-2244 or

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