— Chicago Symphony (@chicagosymphony) September 29, 2016
Riccardo Muti, Joyce DiDonato and Eric Owens, together with musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, gave a concert at Illinois Youth Center-Chicago last Sunday. For Muti it was his second time at the facility and his eighth time in similar centres in the Chicago area. At the beginning of each season, Riccardo Muti visits a Chicago-area juvenile corrections facility to present an interactive recital alongside guest opera singers as well as musicians of the CSO.
Muti has been the Music Director of the CSO since 2010 and during his inaugural season he created the Musical Projects for Underserved and Incarcerated Youth project which engages dozens of young people annually who are in the care of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
Stephen Raskauskas for WFMT – a Chicago based radio station – reports that the performance space “also doubles as a basketball court” and that “dozens of young men filed into rows of blue plastic chairs, all wearing the same blue pants, blue shirts, and white sneakers fastened with Velcro straps”.
DiDonato sang Almirena’s aria Lascia ch’io pianga from Handel’s Rinaldo, explaining to her audience that the character sings ‘Leave me to cry’ while imprisoned, albeit in a ‘beautiful enchanted garden’. She also sang Si, son io from Jake Heggie’s opera Great Scott, an aria she was the first to sing when the work premiered in Dallas a year ago; she didn’t choose an aria from the same composer’s Dead Man Walking however.
Owens sang Infelice! E tuo credevi from Ernani, and Deep River by Harry Thacker Burleigh.
DiDonato said that the atmosphere changed from “restless and uncertain to tranquil and full of curiosity. Music belongs to everybody; it can be an amazing, poignant way to make connections.”
Joyce DiDonato and Riccardo Muti perform the last of three concerts with the CSO tonight, 1 October.