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Grant Park Orchestra

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GRANT PARK ORCHESTRA

Chicago-based soprano Jonita Lattimore graduated from the Lyric Opera's two-year apprenticeship program, the Center for American Artists, last year, but before she'd even enrolled she'd demonstrated remarkable flexibility and poise. In the early 90s she played a secondary role in Chicago Opera Theater's astute production of Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts, and from '94 to '97 she performed with the Houston Grand Opera's training ensemble. She's now in her late 20s, and her voice, which was remarkably rich and pliable six or seven years ago, has ripened into an instrument capable of vivid, even breathtaking dramatic display. Comparisons to the legendary Leontyne Price are perhaps inevitable: Lattimore has sung Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni and Bess in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, two of Price's most celebrated roles, and she seems well on her way to developing a similarly commanding presence. Her repertoire extends to Gilbert and Sullivan, cabaret, and contemporary operas like The Tibetan Book of the Dead, by hot newcomer Ricky Ian Gordon--and she's demonstrated her versatility at her many recitals at the Cultural Center, where she's an audience favorite. At this weekend's Grant Park Orchestra performances, she's part of the vocal quartet in the "Ode to Joy" finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, along with mezzo-soprano Tracy Watson, tenor Richard Clement, and bass Bruce Hall. Conductor Carlos Kalmar has been doing an outstanding job all summer, and to his credit he also appears to be using the familiar symphony to entice the audience to sit through a less digestible work: the program opens with Schoenberg's A Survivor From Warsaw, a narrated piece for voices and orchestra that recounts Nazi brutality and memorializes its victims. Though atonal, astringent, and brief--only seven minutes long--it's as powerfully moving as the Beethoven. Local actor Mike Nussbaum is the narrator. Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson; 312-742-4763.

--TED SHEN

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