Riccardo Muti. Gérard Depardieu. Ivan the Terrible. Need I say more??
Last night was actually the first performance ever given by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra of Prokofiev’s score to Sergei Eisenstein’s film, Ivan the Terrible, delivered in an oratorio form. I’m surprised that the CSO hasn’t played this before because it truly is a magnificent work, especially under the capable and deft conducting of Maestro Muti. He has done this work with Depardieu before at the Salzburg Festival (not surprised), in addition to recording it with the Philharmonia, and so he knows this score really, really well – definitely evident last night. When Prokofiev’s brilliantly evocative music – at times with sacred tranquility, solemn hymns, upbeat jazz-like rhythms, or chilling dictatorial power (there were whip cracks!) – is combined with the highly dramatic invocations of Depardieu’s Ivan, you are left just sitting there absolutely amazed. In addition, I believe that the entire chorus (both the Chicago Children’s Choir and the CSO chorus) were absolutely on the top of their game – more so than in other recent performances. This was really a spectacular performance, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It will probably be the defining performance of this current CSO season, similar to what Falstaff was to last season. If you’re in Chicago, there’s still a chance to see it either tonight or tomorrow night – go, go, go!