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MEASURE FOR MEASURE Singing (and playing) in the new year
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times

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Lyric Opera of Chicago is back with the second half of its season, after a month-long hiatus that will be filled—beginning next December—by the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago's annual production of The Nutcracker ( moving from the Auditorium Theatre to the Civic Opera House ).

In rotating repertory, Lyric offers: Puccini's La Boheme ( Jan. 10-31 ), Massenet's Cendrillon Jan. 11-20, Strauss's Elektra ( Feb. 2-22 ), Verdi's La Traviata ( Feb. 16-March 22 ) and Handel's Ariodante ( Lyric Opera premiere, March 2-17 ). Then, once the classical opera season ends, Lyric will present its yearly nod to Broadway, this time West Side Story in a month-long run ( May 3-June 2 ) with up to eight performances a week.

Sure, opera is an expensive proposition, but Lyric may be singing your tune through two ticket rush programs that can bring the cost way down, especially ( but not only ) for students. Unsold tickets and returns are offered to anyone at half off the face price two hours before each performance. Seat locations and prices will vary from one performance to the next. Patrons can sign up for email notifications or simple go to the box office two hours early. Details:

It gets even better for full-time college undergraduates or grad students. Would you believe $20 for the best seats in the house? Well, seat locations aren't guaranteed but the price is. Students can register online for Lyric's NEXT ( sic ) program, through which they can purchase single tickets or a mini-subscription. Details:

One expects a jazz ensemble to have a guitar, sax, bass and drums, and even a jazz violinist ain't new ( not since Stephane Grapelli was about three years old, anyway ). But I've been around the block more than once and never have encountered a jazz ensemble with both an oud and a cimbalom ... at least not until encountering Alfonso Pontecelli and Swing Gitan, the seven-person unit at the legendary Green Mill in Uptown, every Wednesday night ( 9 a.m.-1 p.m. ). Pontecelli himself is a guitarist.

The oud ( some of you may know ) is a Middle Eastern string instrument broadly in the guitar/mandolin family. The cimbalom is a large floor-sitting string instrument in which its many strings are struck with hammers, often associated with Eastern European music ( especially gypsy music ). There's a $7 cover charge, which is well worth it for this unusual and varied blend of instruments.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and music director Riccardo Muti will desert Chicago for the last two weeks of January for an overseas tour that will take them to Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, Tokyo and Osaka, where the CSO will knock them in aisles if the CSO's long touring history is any precedent. There will be slim pickings back in Chicago, but there is one event musical cognoscenti know is don't-miss: a Jan. 15 concert by the Civic Orchestra, the CSO's superb and unique advanced-training ensemble for young professional musicians. Players from all over the world seek membership ( via auditions ) in the Civic Orchestra, now in its 100th year ( ! ). The Jan. 15 concert, under conductor Bramwell Tovey, offers works by Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Tchaikovsky's Symphony #4. General admission for Civic Orchestra concerts is free but reservations are required:

The Chicago Sinfonietta—one of the nations most diverse professional orchestras—offers its annual MLK Tribute Concert Jan. 20-21 with guest conductors, soloists and chorus performing works by Beethoven, Coleridge-Taylor, Tippet and others in honor of the life, work and spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This yearly concert was one of the Sinfonietta's founding events, initiated by the late Dr. Paul Freeman, the Sinfonietta's founding musical director ( 1987 until his death in 2015 ). The Jan. 20 matinee concert is at Wentz Concert Hall in downtown Naperville, the Jan. 21 evening concert is at Symphony Center in downtown Chicago. Details and tickets:

One of the liveliest mini-concert series around is the MIX at SIX series presented by The Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park ( entrance on Randolph Street ). These casual one-hour, post-work concerts not only feature excellent and varied musical fare, but also cocktails and gourmet food-truck offerings for purchase. There are five more monthly MIX at SIX programs in the current season ( through May ), the next one being outstanding young Spanish guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas on Friday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. Sainz is a master of the Rioja Spanish musical tradition, but also features contemporary guitar works in his repertory. Details and A five-concert subscription is just $50.

Ticklin' them ivories: Pianist Angela Hewitt will join music director Jane Glover and Music of the Baroque for an all-Mozart concert, Feb. at the Harris Theater, Saturday, Jan. 26. The next afternoon ( Jan. 27 ) at 3 p.m., pianist Leif Ove Andsnes brings his world-renowned artistry to the Symphony Center Presents piano series for a recital of works by Schumann, Janacek and Bartok.

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