There’s something for everyone this year at the Ravinia Festival, with everything from comedy and movies to rock and classical music offerings it was announced Wednesday. In all, the season boasts 80 debuts and 55 classical music premieres.
One major homage of the season are several evenings of programming in celebration of the Leonard Bernstein Centennial.
“He was the first American to break through in what was the Eurocentric business of conducting orchestras,” said Ravinia president and CEO Welz Kauffmann, about Bernstein’s legacy. “He already was one of the most famous composers and pianists when the conducting part of his career started to more fully emerge. … He became a phenomenal social activist and used [the conductor’s] podium to express his belief in civil rights, sexual rights, women’s rights. He was anti-Vietnam War when that was just not done. … In a world where Germans, French, Russian and Italian composers and conductors ran everything, it was a very big deal for this Jewish-American music maker to emerge in such a magnificent and high-profile way. So this season we are celebrating the five facets of Leonard: the American music teacher, the pianist, the composer, the conductor and the social activist.”
The centerpiece of the Bernstein celebration is the presentation of Bernstein’s “Mass,” (July 28) by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with Marin Alsop conducting. Also featured for the performance will be Vocality and Chicago Children’s Choir.
Tickets will be available for purchase by donors only beginning March 20. Tickets for the general public will for the first time go on sale in two waves: June and July concerts will go on sale at 6 a.m. May 8; August and September concert dates go on sale at 6 a.m. May 10. Tickets will be available for purchase at ravinia.org.
Among the season highlights:
Comedian Whoopi Goldberg headlines the pavilion Aug. 3 with an evening of her observations on current events and more. Steve Martin is joined by Martin Short, the Steep Canyon Rangers and Jeff Babko on Aug. 12 for “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life. Chris Thile and his supporting players will present “Live From Here” in a live national broadcast June 9. Chicago’s own Joey Villagomez (Latin Kings of Comedy, “Just for Laughs,”) makes his Ravinia stand-up debut on Sept. 16 as part of the Fiesta Ravinia celebration of Mexican culture. Broadway and television veteran Alan Cumming returns to the venue, this time headlining the pavilion with his “Alan Cumming: Legal Immigrant” one-man show (July 13).
Roger Daltrey, along with guitarist/backup singer Simon Townshend, guitarist Frank Simes, keyboardist Loren Gold, bassist Jon Button, drummer Scott Devours, and the Ravinia Festival Orchestra, will bring a full concert performance of the The Who’s “Tommy” to the Ravinia pavilion stage June 23 and 25.
Diana Ross returns to the venue June 2 for the first time since her 2016 debut. Canadian rockers Loverboy and Chicago’s Survivor combine for an evening of ’80s pop on June 3. John Fogerty and ZZ Top bring their co-headlining “Blues and Bayou” tour to the pavilion June 12. Anita Baker headlines the pavilion June 10, followed by Alison Krauss (June 16), Seal (June 19) and Jill Scott (June 22). Bryan Adams, whose music is featured in the world-premiere stage musical “Pretty Woman” (now playing at the Oriental Theatre) brings his Ultimate Tour to the pavilion June 29.
It’s multi-generational blues when Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang headline the pavilion on July 8. Other July highlights include Evanescence and Lindsey Stirling (July 10).
August highlights include Earth, Wind & Fire (Aug. 17); Cake and Ben Folds (Aug. 22); Sugarland, Frankie Ballard and Lindsay Ell bring an evening of country music to the pavilion (Aug. 23); and it’s punk/New Wave when Culture Club, The B-52s and The Thompson Twins headline the pavilion Aug.31 and Sept. 1.
And at opposite ends of the music spectrum, it’s an evening of hard rock/prog rock Sept. 3 courtesy of the Jethro Tull by Ian Anderson 50th Anniversary Tour, and jazz standards courtesy of the incomparable Tony Bennett (Sept. 8), making his 38th appearance at the Highland Park summer music festival. Rapper 50 Cent makes his Ravinia debut Sept. 6.
On the classical music side of things, highlights include:
July 12 boasts the first in a series of concerts in honor of the Leonard Bernstein Centennial Celebration, featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with Marin Alsop conducting, and Joshua Bell (violin).
July 18: Venezuelan Maestro Gustavo Dudamel makes his Ravinia debut conducting the CSO in an all-Beethoven program, featuring pianist Yuja Wang. “[Dudamel] is thought of as the only conductor picking up the mantle from Bernstein,” Kauffmann said.
Ravinia’s film with orchestra series will feature “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (Aug. 1) with the CSO and Emil de Cou conducting. The film will be shown on pavilion and lawn screens. The live musical accompaniment continues on Aug. 2 with “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Joshua Gersen conducts the CSO on Aug. 15 in accompaniment to the Alfred Hitchcock classic “Vertigo.”
Also new this year is a revamped dining pavilion. Opened in 2007, the restaurant experience has been completely revamped and will now be run by Levy Restaurants, with executive chef Michael Tsonton calling the on-site shots. Menus have been updated offering a wider variety of food items, and seating capacity (both indoors and out) has been increased. The first floor will feature the new Lawn Bar (full-service bar with small plates), an expanded Ravinia market, and 847 Burger, among others. The second floor will include Tree Top (chef’s tables and carving stations) and a refreshed menu for the fine dining Park View restaurant. In addition, the gift shop has nearly doubled in size.
For the full season lineup and schedule, visit ravinia.org.