Counting Down…Best of 2016

I’m finished with finals and winter break has officially started! Anyways, as 2016 is coming to an end, I thought I’d take a look back at this year and count down my ten most exciting experiences in this “Best of 2016” post, although it is a bit hard to narrow this whole year down to only ten events…

10. Meeting Bruce Springsteen (non classical music related, but still deserves a mention because he’s one of my favorite singers ever). It’s been just a couple of weeks since this happened and I still can’t believe it to be true. Then again, just like the Boss sings, “Faith will be rewarded…”, so maybe it’s not too much of a surprise that this actually happened 😀

9. An unexpected greeting (Muti conducts Strauss and Bruckner in Chicago). It was only the second day of my junior year, and for my first CSO concert of the ’16-’17 season, I happened to be sitting in the very first row, right by the violins. After the opening piece (Mussorgsky’s Night on a Bald Mountain) finished, Maestro Muti comes down from the podium, and as he’s walking, he points and waves at me! LIKE WHAT EVEN? Seriously, on the second day of school, and this happens…I was literally on cloud nine throughout the whole concert. I know it was just a small gesture on his part, but hey, it’s not everyday that one of your favorite musicians actually goes out of his way to publicly acknowledge you 😀

8. Lyric’s production of Donizetti’s Lucia di LammermoorIn addition to Verdi, the opera I most enjoy is opera from the bel canto period, where composers like Bellini and Donizetti really wrote opera with respect to the voice. One of those works is Lucia di Lammermoor and  being able to experience this work live at Lyric, with Albina Shagimuratova and Piotr Beczala in the lead roles, was one of my highlights of the year.

7. Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s and Ivari Ilja’s recital at Lyric. Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s voice is one of the most unique voices out there – it’s super smooth and deep, and if you’ve ever heard him sing Russian war songs, there’s this tinge of sadness in his voice that is really different than any other voices I’ve heard before. His vocal recital, with pianist Ivari Ilja, showcased his famed breath control and artistry, and was a real pleasure to witness live. Hoping he gets better and returns back to opera soon!

6. Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Chicago for their North American tour. In April, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, with their music director Maestro Mariss Jansons, visited Chicago and performed Shostakovich’s 7th symphony. Their sound was so cohesive – an incredible experience to say the least, considering it was actually the first time that I had ever heard a European orchestra perform live!

5. Lyric’s production of Verdi’s Nabucco, my favorite opera. After watching many versions of Nabucco on YouTube/DVD and listening to many more (maybe too many) recorded versions, I finally got to hear my favorite opera performed live, in a staged production at Lyric, conducted by Maestro Carlo Rizzi.

4. Salzburg Festival: A recital with Thomas Hampson and Wolfram Rieger. Thomas Hampson is one of my favorite baritones today, and he’s one of the most accomplished performers of lieder today as well. To hear him sing both American songs and German lieder in Salzburg was just amazing. Hoping he comes back to Chicago soon!

3. Maestro Muti conducting the annual free community CSO concert at the Apostolic Church of God. To be honest, this could’ve been my #1 moment, but my ultimate top two moments were just a bit more memorable, musically speaking, so I ended up placing this at #3. An all-Beethoven program (today happens to be Beethoven’s birthday btw!) combined with a powerful opening performance of Lift Every Voice and Sing, conducted by Maestro Muti, is undoubtedly a highlight in itself. However, the real highlight, for me personally, came after the concert, as I got to just casually talk with Maestro Muti about music and random stuff like school, (and if my understanding of Italian was correct, he actually knows about this blog, or at least my post on his concert at the Salzburg Festival!).

2. Salzburg Festival: Maestro Muti conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. The fact that this was my first time in Europe, combined with the fact that this was Maestro Muti’s 250th concert at the Salzburg Festival, one of the most important music festivals in the world, with the Vienna Philharmonic, one of the most storied orchestras in the world, obviously amounts to something unforgettable.

1. Maestro Muti conducting Verdi’s Falstaff in Chicago. Seriously, I went to see this twice, which I usually don’t do, and I got to attend a rehearsal – life couldn’t be any better than that. This definitely had to be my #1 experience this year. Who could forget Ambrogio Maestri, the world’s leading interpreter of Sir John (who actually just celebrated his 250th performance of Falstaff at the Wiener Staatsoper) and Maestro Muti, the world’s leading interpreter of Verdi, singing to each other (literally) during opening night, or the CSO playing through Verdi’s score with a lightness and flexibility that just carried throughout the entire night? What an experience to remember!


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