Chicago performing-arts groups look toward 21st-century challenges

Posted on: May 3, 2011

In Sunday’s (5/1) New York Times, Neil Tesser writes, “Last fall, during his consultancy to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma visited the Illinois Youth Center, a correctional institution in Warrenville. He accompanied the female inmates as they rehearsed a musical show based on their life experiences, as part of the C.S.O.’s program to reach communities far from Symphony Center. In December, the superstar soprano Renée Fleming, in her role as the Lyric Opera’s creative consultant, outlined plans to draw new audiences to the Lyric’s home on Wacker Drive. They include the classic American musical ‘Show Boat’ in the operatic season and concerts by non-opera artists like Sting. That sort of thinking should appeal to Anthony Freud, who was named the Lyric’s new general director on April 21. … That these three audience-builders should appear on the Chicago scene within the last 16 months is no accident. Even before the recession, the 21st century posed challenges to classical-music institutions. … Susan Mathieson Mayer, director of communications for the Lyric, put the blame for the drop in attendance on cutbacks in arts education in public schools. … Deborah F. Rutter, president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, identified another factor. ‘The competition for leisure time is so much more challenging than it was 20 to 30 years ago,’ she said.”

Posted May 3, 2011