Ian Bostridge | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ian Bostridge




In 1990 young British tenor Ian Bostridge earned a doctorate in history from Oxford, but within five years he'd abandoned academia and embarked on a full-time performing career. He made the switch in his late 20s--a relatively advanced age for a classical soloist--but he's already established himself as one of the most promising singers of his generation. Reviews of his first North American tour, in the spring of 1998, were almost uniformly ecstatic, though a bit much was made of his Englishness and his education--the unavoidable comparison was to Peter Pears, a British tenor who debuted in the States during World War II. Bostridge has a similarly delicate, reedy voice, and likewise compensates for its shortcomings with superb interpretive skills, displaying an elegance and clarity perfectly suited to the art-song repertoire. He also has a nimble, curious mind--he wrote his dissertation on 17th- and 18th-century witchcraft, idolizes Bob Dylan, and quotes Wittgenstein in interviews--so it's no surprise that he approaches singing with great intellectual and emotional focus. He seems capable of divining a composer's thoughts, right down to the kind of audience a particular piece was intended for--insight that can create a powerful communion of feeling in his listeners. On Bostridge's superb CDs of Schubert and Schumann lieder, each track is an artfully etched miniature psychodrama, sensitive yet forthright. And in his rendition of Schubert's "Erlkönig," he breathes life into four distinct characters, ranging from a young boy to the otherworldly figure of the title, who has come to entice the child into death. This program, organized around the themes of nature and the supernatural, consists of Schubert songs, including "Erlkönig," and a selection of Hugo Wolf's settings of the German poet Eduard Mörike. Julius Drake, the pianist on Bostridge's excellent 1999 album The English Songbook (EMI), also accompanies him here. This is Bostridge's Chicago debut. Friday, October 13, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 773-702-8068.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Thompson.

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