Archive for October, 2017

PostHeaderIcon “Rigoletto” Is The Real Deal

Let me get right to the point. “Rigoletto”, now at Lyric Opera, is a vocally ravishing, near-perfect production that you should rush to see before its run ends on November 3rd. It is good to see Lyric nicely rebounding from its well-intentioned, but flawed, opening production of Gluck’s “Orphee et Eurydice”.

Rigoletto singing Gilda

Rigoletto sings to Gilda

The opera is one of (Giuseppe) Verdi’s triumphs in which he delved deeper into writing music closely married to the story’s drama. And the story is one that is full of so many elements that strongly resonate in our time: a parent’s love, sex, power and corruption. On Opening Night (October 7), both my companion and I thought the Duke of Mantua’s modern counterpart was Harvey Weinstein with Donald Trump not far behind.

It is an opera in which the trio of leading roles demands great vocal talent. And the trio of Matthew Polenzani as the lascivious Duke of Mantua, Rosa Feola,  as the innocent Gilda in love with the Duke and Quinn Kelsey as the court jester, Rigoletto, blend beautifully together and deliver the vocal goods. Each sang their roles with freshness and rich tones with nary a miscue all evening. The opera has some of Verdi’s most stirring music such as the meltingly moving aria between Rigoletto and his daughter, Gilda in Act Two and the Duke’s famous “La Donna Mobile”. It seemed to be more of a “sung opera” than most, in that Verdi one aria leadling inexorably into another, driving the story along.

Duke and Rigoletto

Rigoletto and the Duke

Lyric also made a smart choice in engaging the sought-after Italian conductor, Marco Armiliato, to play coax spirited playing of Verdi’s splendid score from Lyric’s stellar orchestra and the promising E. Loren Meeker to keep all the parts moving seamlessly.

Rigoletto is the tale of a curse cast on Rigoletto in Act One that is fulfilled at the end of the opera. The court jester’s over-protective love for his daughter leads to conflict and her unintended death.

I saw the Metropolitan Opera’s Live 2013 telecast of the opera in which director Michael Mayer had the inspired idea to transfer the action from 16th Century Mantua to modern-day Las Vegas with the Duke as the leader of a gamblers’ “rat pack”. That production featured the great tenor, Piotr Beczala, and generated much amusement. Lyric’s production was low on laughs but  struck me as having a deeper emotional core.

I left the hall knowing that I’d spent a great night at the opera. You have five more chances to catch this winning production. For tickets, go to



PostHeaderIcon 10 Films to Catch at the Chicago International Film Festival

The 53rd edition of the Chicago International Film Festival kicks off on Thursday and runs through October 26th. I can recall the early days when the festival was a scrappier version of its current self, screening movies at 4 or 5 different venues and not capturing such high-profile stars as this year’s Patrick Stewart and Vanessa Redgrave.

Tribute must be paid to Michael Kutza and close associates who persevered through the years so that Chicago is now is now seen as on a par with the film festivals of Berlin, Toronto, Cannes and New York. I still remember an early festival film I saw, “Diva”, that screened back in 1981.

The festival this year will feature 150 films from 50 countries in a wide variety of categories. What this blog offers is a personal guide to the      10 films that I think will be among the festival’s most noteworthy. They are arranged not in numerical order but according to the dates they will screen to make your scheduling easier. All films will be screened at the AMC River East theater at 322 East Illinois St.

October 12–Opening Night features Marshall, a docudrama about an early case in the career of  Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. It stars Chadwick Boseman as Marshall and is directed by Reginald Hudlin.

October 13 (Also 10/14 & 18)–A dark horse pick is Chateau, from French directors Modi Barry and Cedric Ido. It’s described as a smart, fast-paced comedy that follows an African immigrant who must stay ahead of the game and out of the way of the law.

October 16–Last Flag Flying stars Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne. And it is directed by a favorite of mine, Richard Linklater. Seems like a no-brainer to be a hit.

October 17–Blow-Up, an enigmatic murder mystery directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, that was a sensation when it was released back in 1966. Starring Vanessa Redgrave (who also directs a feature at the festival, Sea Sorrow). If you have never seen this film or if you were born after 1970, this should be on your must-see list.

October 18–Lady Bird looks like another sure winner. It stars a strong-willed teenage girl (Saoirse Ronan) and an opinionated mother, played by Laurie Metcalf and is directed by Greta Gerwig.

October 19–Hannah which seems like another dark horse choice but stars Charlotte Rampling and that’s good enough for me. The director is Andrea Pallaord.

October 19 & 23–Rogers Park, a drama set in the Chicago neighborhood, revolves around the struggles of an interracial couple to keep their love alive. Directed by Kyle Henry.

October 20 & 21–In the Fade stars Diane Kruger who won the Best Actress prize at Cannes. The director is Fatih Akin.

October 22–This is a personal pick. It’s two documentaries from Kartemquin Films, Chicago’s independent film collective, that has been producing quality documentaries revolving around themes of social justice. One not to miss is ’63 Boycott, by Kartemquin founder. Gordon Quinn, about the Chicago Public School Boycott of 1963.

October 22 & 23–Let the Sunshine In starring Juliette Binoche and directed by Claire Denis. That combination says it all and is a worthy way to end the festival for me.

There are many ways to order tickets. Go online at, call 312-332-FILM, in person at the AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois St. and at the Pop-up box office at 400 S. Dearborn St. from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.