ABOVE: Mariusz Kwiecien sings the title role in Lyric Opera’s “Don Giovanni” |Photo by Mikolaj Mikolajczyk
BY KYLE MACMILLAN | FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
A highlight of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2014-15 season is sure to be music director Riccardo Muti’s exploration of the complete symphonies of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Even though many of the Russian composer’s symphonies are well known, many listeners have probably not heard all of them, and most have probably not experienced the entire cycle in such a fashion. It’s an ideal opportunity to compare and contrast and gain further appreciation of these masterworks. The set begins with the Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36, which Muti is grouping with an array of other works across three programs, including Tchaikovsky’s “The Tempest” and Claude Debussy’s “La Mer.” Concerts are set for 8:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30. (312) 294-3000; cso.org.
Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, in Evanston, is the final venue for a traveling exhibition, titled “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey.” The survey features more than 50 works by the internationally known Kenyan-born artist who now lives in Brooklyn. She works in a variety of media but is perhaps best known for large-scale collages, which offer no shortage of visual opulence but also deal with a range of socio-political issues, including gender, race, colonialism and war. The show runs through Dec. 7, with an opening celebration from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday that will feature a talk by Mutu. Admission, free. (847) 491-4000; blockmuseum.northwestern.edu.
Lyric Opera of Chicago opens its 60th-anniversary season with a new production of “Don Giovanni,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s famous opera about an unrepentant philanderer who must face his judgment day. Baritone Mariusz Kwiecień will sing the title role in this version, which has been staged by Robert Falls, artistic director of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. Music director Andrew Davis will conduct. The production opens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and runs for nine additional performances in the Civic Opera House, 20 N Upper Wacker. $39-$249. (312) 827-5600; lyricopera.org.
The Renaissance Society, an internationally known contemporary art space at the University of Chicago, has just unveiled “The New World, Application for Turtle Island,” featuring a new body work by Josef Strau. It is the first solo exhibition in an American museum to showcase the Austrian-born artist who lives and works in Berlin and New York. According to accompanying press materials, “Strau’s work mines the interplay between language, form, and environment, resulting in concise and highly symbolic sculptural installations.” “The New World” runs through Nov. 9 in the society’s gallery at 5811 S. Ellis Ave. Admission, free. (773) 702-8670; renaissancesociety.org.
Returning for its eighth visit to Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, Mexico City-based Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán will present a concert at 3 p.m. Sunday as part of area Hispanic Heritage Month activities. Students from the Chicago Mariachi Project’s Mariachi Academy will perform on the first floor of the Symphony Center rotunda before the concert from 2:15 to 2:45 p.m. Tickets, $35–$100. (312) 294-3000; cso.org.