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Illustration by Pam Rossi

After more than three years of planning, building, testing, and fine-tuning, Symphony Center—a $120 million project that included a facility expansion and extensive renovation of Orchestra Hall—opened its doors twenty years ago today, on October 4, 1997, with an opening night gala concert.

Led by acousticians Kirkegaard Associates and architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the project encompassed additions and improvements to Orchestra Hall, including raising the roof line for increased sound reverberation, replacing plaster walls, decreasing the width and increasing the depth of the stage, adding an extensive riser system, replacing all seats and adding terrace seating behind the stage, installing an acoustic canopy (to improve onstage ensemble conditions and sound reflection to the audience), and increasing patron amenity spaces. In addition, the project included new administrative offices in the former Chapin & Gore building; Buntrock Hall, a multipurpose rehearsal and performance space; renovation of a private club (formerly the home of the Cliff Dwellers); and a multistory arcade and rotunda. The following year brought the opening of a new restaurant (originally Rhapsody and now tesori) and an education center.

Opening a three-week inaugural festival, the October 4 gala concert featured Daniel Barenboim leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the complete program was as follows:

Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center (Jim Steere photo)

ELGAR Nimrod from the Enigma Variations, Op. 36 (performed in memory of Sir Georg Solti)
VERDI Già nella notte densa from Otello, Act 1
Soile Isokoski, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
VERDI Niun mi tema from Otello, Act 4
Plácido Domingo, tenor
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595
Daniel Barenboim, piano
COPLAND Lincoln Portrait
William Warfield, narrator
BRUCKNER Te Deum
Soile Isokoski, soprano
Rosemarie Lang, mezzo-soprano
Thomas Moser, tenor
Matthias Hölle, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, chorus director

Natyakalalayam Dance Company performing in Symphony Center’s rotunda on October 5, 1997 (Jeff Meacham photo)

Natyakalalayam Dance Company performing in Symphony Center’s rotunda on October 5, 1997 (Jeff Meacham photo)

Midnight marked the beginning of the first Marshall Field’s Day of Music: twenty-four hours of free, live performances of music across all genres in multiple Symphony Center venues, attended by more than 20,000 people. The festival also launched the newly renamed Symphony Center Presents series (formerly Allied Arts, begun by Harry Zelzer in the 1930s), with concerts by Barenboim, Itzhak PerlmanPinchas Zukerman, Maurizio Pollini, and the Emerson String Quartet, along with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Joe WilliamsOscar Peterson, Marcus Roberts Trio, and a tribute celebrating the eightieth-birthday anniversary of Thelonious Monk (led by his son Thelonious Monk, Jr.).

October 22, 1997 (Jim Steere photo)

October 22, 1997 (Jim Steere photo)

Sadly, the many celebrations were bittersweet. Music director laureate Sir Georg Solti—who, during the festival would have celebrated not only his eighty-fifth birthday but also his 1,000th concert with the Orchestra—had unexpectedly died on September 5, 1997. A special, free memorial concert was added on October 22 that included Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, followed by Mozart’s Requiem with Emily Magee, Anna Larsson, John Aler, René Pape, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus. A celebration concert was given on October 25, with Barenboim conducting Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto (from the keyboard) and the Seventh Symphony.

Portions of this article previously appeared here.

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Samuel Ramey (Christian Steiner photo)

Wishing the happiest of (slightly belated) birthdays to the remarkable American bass Samuel Ramey, who celebrated his seventh-fifth on March 28!

The legendary singer has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of notable occasions, both in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival. A complete list of his performances with the Orchestra is below (all concerts at Orchestra Hall unless otherwise noted):

March 26, 27, and 28, 1981
BRUCKNER Te Deum
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
David Rendall, tenor
Samuel Ramey, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded by Deutsche Grammophon in Orchestra Hall on March 28, 1981

November 1, 2, and 4, 1984
MUSSORGSKY Boris Godunov
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Ruggero Raimondi, bass
Zehava Gal, mezzo-soprano
Cyndia Sieden, soprano
Jennifer Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Langridge, tenor
Hartmut Welker, baritone
Samuel Ramey, bass
Kaludi Kaludov, tenor
Lucia Valentini-Terrani, mezzo-soprano
John Shirley-Quirk, bass-baritone
Sergei Kopchak, bass
Kurt R. Hansen, tenor
Richard Cohn, baritone
Bradley Nystrom, bass-baritone
Donald Kaasch, tenor
Paul Grizzell, bass
Dale Prest, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

November 16, 1986
VERDI Messa da Requiem
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Margaret Price, soprano
Linda Finnie, mezzo-soprano
Vinson Cole, tenor
Ramey, Samuel; bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Gwynne Howell originally was scheduled to perform the bass part but canceled due to illness. He was replaced by Bonaldo Giaiotti on November 13 and 14 and Ramey on November 16.

Samuel Ramey (Steven Leonard photo)

June 23, 1989 (Ravinia Festival)
VERDI Messa da Requiem
James Levine, conductor
Andrea Gruber, soprano
Tatiana Troyanos, mezzo-soprano
Gary Lakes, tenor
Samuel Ramey, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

October 6, 1990 (Centennial Gala)
BEETHOVEN Finale: Ode, “To Joy” from Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Sylvia McNair, soprano
Susanne Mentzer, mezzo-soprano
Gary Lakes, tenor
Samuel Ramey, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

July 8, 2000 (Ravinia Fesitval)
Selections by Copland, Leigh, Loewe, Mozart, Rodgers, and Verdi
Miguel-Harth Bedoya, conductor
Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano
Samuel Ramey, bass

July 2, 2005 (Ravinia Festival)
IBERT Chansons de Don Quichotte
RAVEL Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
James Conlon, conductor

August 15, and 17, 2008 (Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival)
MOZART Don Giovanni, K. 527
James Conlon, conductor
Ellie Dehn, soprano
Soile Isokoski, soprano
Heidi Grant Murphy, soprano
Toby Spence, tenor
Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, bass-baritone
Samuel Ramey, bass
James Creswell, bass
Morris Robinson, bass
Apollo Chorus of Chicago
Stephen Alltop, director

Happy, happy birthday!

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Illustration by Pam Rossi

Illustration by Pam Rossi

After more than three years of planning, building, testing, and fine-tuning, Symphony Center—a $120 million project that included a facility expansion and extensive renovation of Orchestra Hall—opened its doors on October 4, 1997, with an opening night gala concert.

Led by acousticians Kirkegaard Associates and architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the project encompassed additions and improvements to Orchestra Hall, including raising the roof line for increased sound reverberation, replacing plaster walls, decreasing the width and increasing the depth of the stage, adding an extensive riser system, replacing all seats and adding terrace seating behind the stage, installing an acoustic canopy (to improve onstage ensemble conditions and sound reflection to the audience), and increasing patron amenity spaces. In addition, the project included new administrative offices in the former Chapin & Gore building; Buntrock Hall, a multipurpose rehearsal and performance space; renovation of a private club (formerly the home of the Cliff Dwellers); and a multistory arcade and rotunda. The following year brought the opening of a new restaurant (originally Rhapsody and now tesori) and an education center.

Natyakalalayam Dance Company performing in Symphony Center’s rotunda on October 5, 1997 (Jeff Meacham photo)

Natyakalalayam Dance Company performing in Symphony Center’s rotunda on October 5, 1997 (Jeff Meacham photo)

Launching a three-week inaugural festival, the October 4 gala concert was conducted by Daniel Barenboim and included excerpts from Verdi’s Otello with Soile Isokoski and Plácido Domingo, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 27 (with Barenboim conducting from the keyboard), Copland’s Lincoln Portrait with William Warfield, and Bruckner’s Te Deum with the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Midnight marked the beginning of the first Day of Music: twenty-four hours of free, live performances of music across all genres in multiple Symphony Center venues, attended by more than 20,000 people.

October 22, 1997 (Jim Steere photo)

October 22, 1997 (Jim Steere photo)

Sadly, the many celebrations were bittersweet. Music director laureate Sir Georg Solti—who, during the festival would have celebrated not only his eighty-fifth birthday but also his 1,000th concert with the Orchestra—had unexpectedly died on September 5, 1997. A special, free memorial concert was added on October 22 that included Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, followed by Mozart’s Requiem with Emily Magee, Anna Larsson, John Aler, René Pape, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus. A celebration concert was given on October 25, with Daniel Barenboim conducting Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto (from the keyboard) and the Seventh Symphony.

This article also appears here.

Placido Domingo

Wishing the happiest of birthdays to Plácido Domingo, celebrating his seventh-fifth!

The legendary singer has appeared in Chicago on both concert and opera stages, performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as vocal soloist and conductor at Orchestra Hall, the Ravinia Festival, and several other venues in Chicago and in Europe. A complete list of his performances with the Orchestra is below (all concerts at Orchestra Hall unless otherwise noted):

October 9, 1987 (special concert celebrating Sir Georg Solti‘s seventy-fifth birthday)
J. STRAUSS, Jr. Overture to Die Fledermaus
Plácido Domingo, conductor
VERDI Excerpts from Act 1 of Otello
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Joseph Wolverton, tenor
Kurt R. Hansen, tenor
David Huneryager, baritone
Richard Cohn, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

Solti 75

October 9, 1987 (Jim Steere photo)

June 27, 1992 (Ravinia Festival)
SAINT SAËNS Samson and Delilah
James Levine, conductor
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
David Anderson, tenor
John Concepcion, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Bryn Terfel, bass-baritone
Sergei Koptchak, bass
Paul Grizzell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 27, 1994 (Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park)
Miguel Roa, conductor
Veronica Villaroel, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
SOROZÁBAL Madrileña bonita from La del manojo de Rosas
MORENO TORROBA Los vareadores from Luisa Fernanda
MORENO TORROBA En mi tierra extremena from Luisa Fernanda
PENELLA Torero quiero ser from El gato montés
MORENO TORROBA De este apacible rincón from Luisa Fernanda
GUERRERO Fiel espada from El Huésped del Sevillano
MORENO TORROBA Amor, vida de mi vida from Maravilla
CABALLERO No cantes mas from El duo de la Africana
SOROZÁBAL No puede ser from La tabernera del puerto
SERRANO Te quiero Morena from El trust de los tenorios
LARA Granada

July 6, 1994 (Ravinia Festival)
Plácido Domingo, conductor
TCHAIKOVSKY Romeo and Juliet
SAINT SAËNS Introduction and Rondo capriccioso in A Minor, Op. 28
Sarah Chang, violin
SARASATE Concert Fantasies on Carmen, Op. 25
Sarah Chang, violin
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36

July 8, 1994 (Ravinia Festival)
Eugene Kohn, conductor
Kallen Esperian, soprano
MOZART Dalla sua pace from Don Giovanni, K. 527
MOZART Ma qual mai soffre, O Dei, from Don Giovanni, K. 527
VERDI Quando le sere al placido from Luisa Miller
VERDI Già nella notte densa from Otello
PUCCINI E lucevan le stelle from Tosca
MEYERBEER O, Paradis! from L’africaine
GOUNOD Il se fait tard . . . O nuit d’amour from Faust
DONIZETTI Caro elisir . . . Trallarallara . . . Esulti pur la barbara from L’elisir d’amore

May 2, 1996 (special concert celebrating Daniel Barenboim‘s Silver Jubilee)
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Plácido Domingo, tenor
MOZART Dalla sua pace from Don Giovanni, K. 527
BERLIOZ Invocation to Nature from The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
VERDI Otello’s Death from Otello
WAGNER Winterstürme from Die Walküre
TCHAIKOVSKY Lenski’s Aria from Eugene Onegin

May 12, 1997 (United Center)
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Elizabeth Futral, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
MASSENET Ô souverain, ô juge, ô père from Le Cid
CILÈA E’ la solita storia from L’Arlesiana
WAGNER Winterstürme from Die Walküre
DONIZETTI Caro elisir . . . Trallarallara . . . Esulti pur la barbara from L’elisir d’amore
PUCCINI E lucevan le stelle from Tosca
MASCAGNI Suzel, buon dì! from L’amico Fritz
LEHÁR Dein ist mein ganzes Herz from The Land of Smiles
LEHÁR Lippen schweigen from The Merry Widow
MOZART Là ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni, K. 527
SOROZÁBAL No puede ser from La tabernera del puerto
LARA Granada
VERDI Brindisi—Libiamo, libiamo ne’ lieti calici from La traviata

Star-Crossed Lovers

January 26, 1998 (Dan Rest photo)

May 13, 15, 16, and 17, 1997 (Medinah Temple)
June 8 and 9, 1997 (Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany)
FALLA Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Plácido Domingo, conductor
Daniel Barenboim, piano

October 4, 1997 (Symphony Center Opening Night Gala)
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Soile Isokoski, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
VERDI Già nella notte densa from Otello
VERDI Niun mi tema from Otello

January 26, 1998 (Star-Crossed Lovers)
Daniel Barenboim, conductor and piano
Renée Fleming, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
BERNSTEIN Tonight from West Side Story
GOUNOD Il se fait tard . . . O nuit d’amour from Faust
VERDI Già nella notte densa from Otello
LEHÁR Dein ist mein ganzes Herz from The Land of Smiles
LEHÁR Lippen schweigen from The Merry Widow
GARDEL El día que me quieras
MORENO TORROBA ¡Quisiera verte y no verte!
MORENO TORROBA Jota castellana

May 25, 26, 27, and 30, 2000
Plácido Domingo, conductor
WAGNER Siegfried Idyll
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Rachel Barton, violin
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

August 4, 2007 (Ravinia Festival)
James Conlon, conductor
Ana María Martínez, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
MASSENET Ô souverain, ô juge, ô père from Le Cid
CILÈA E’ la solita storia from L’Arlesiana
WAGNER Winterstürme from Die Walküre
VERDI Già nella notte densa from Otello
MORENO TORROBA Amor, vida de mi vida from Maravilla
MORENO TORROBA En mi tierra extremena from Luisa Fernanda
BERNSTEIN Tonight from West Side Story
SOROZÁBAL No puede ser from La tabernera del puerto
PENELLA Duet from El gato montés
LARA Granada
LEHÁR Lippen schweigen from The Merry Widow

Domingo also recorded with the Orchestra on three occasions:

VERDI Requiem
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on September 20 and 21, 1993
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Alessandra Marc, soprano
Waltraud Meier, mezzo-soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Ferruccio Furlanetto, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Erato
(Verdi’s Requiem was performed on September 17, 18, 23, and 25, 1993, with Vicente Ombuena singing the tenor solos; Domingo was in Chicago only on September 20.)

FALLA Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Recorded in Medinah Temple on May 13, 15, 16, and 17, 1997
Plácido Domingo, conductor
Daniel Barenboim, piano
Teldec

Star-Crossed Lovers
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on January 26, 1998
Daniel Barenboim, conductor and piano
Renée Fleming, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
BERNSTEIN Tonight from West Side Story
GOUNOD Il se fait tard . . . O nuit d’amour from Faust
GARDEL El día que me quieras
MORENO TORROBA ¡Quisiera verte y no verte!
MORENO TORROBA Jota castellana
VERDI Già nella notte densa from Otello
LEHÁR Dein ist mein ganzes Herz from The Land of Smiles
LEHÁR Lippen schweigen from The Merry Widow
London

Happy, happy birthday!

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