The city of Chicago’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 24 in Millennium Park (Washington at Michigan), will take on operatic tones with performances by world-renowned sopranos Renee Fleming and Danielle de Niese.
Fleming, appointed creative consultant of Chicago’s Lyric Opera in 2010, will appear in the company’s production of “Merry Widow” beginning Saturday. De Niese can be seen in Lyric’s production of “Bel Canto,” opening Dec. 7. Both singers will be performing a selection of holiday classics at the outdoor event, which marks the first time the city’s official Christmas tree will be located in Millennium Park.
After an annual call for submissions, this year’s tree was donated by the Voelker family of suburban Northlake. The 63-foot Colorado Blue Spruce was chosen from 130 entries received by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The Voelker family will join Mayor Emanuel for the lighting ceremonies.
Other scheduled entertainment includes:
• Cast members from Emerald City Theatre’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” performing tunes from the family musical running through Jan. 3 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.
• The Latin Music Project Ensemble, performing traditional holiday songs.
The tree lighting ceremony was moved this year from Daley Plaza to Millennium Park to complete what city officials are calling a “winter campus” on the lakefront, whose events/activities include Caroling at Cloud Gate (“The Bean”), skating at Millennium Park and at the “ribbon”in Maggie Daley Park, and visits/photos with Santa Claus at at the park’s holiday “welcome center” (visit cityofchicago.org/dcase for Old St. Nick’s official schedule).
For history buffs, Chicago’s first official Christmas tree was lit by Mayor Carter Harrison in 1913 in Grant Park (at Monroe and Michigan), and for more than 50 years an official tree made its holiday home in various locations throughout the park. Starting in 1966, Daley Plaza became the official site for the annual ceremony, where it remained for 48 years (except for 1982 when the tree stood at State and Wacker).
The tree will be cut down Monday morning; delivery in Millennium Park is expected around 9 p.m. Tuesday.
For more information, visit millenniumpark.org.