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University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra

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In a college town an outstanding, largely amateur ensemble like the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra can be a source of civic pride. But in Chicago it's the professional orchestras that command the lion's share of attention. Yet on any given day the U. of C.'s resident orchestra--or, for that matter, its counterpart at Northwestern--is capable of polished performances that surpass the pros. Much of the credit for its fairly impressive track record of the past decade goes to head maestro Barbara Schubert. A fine musician with good commercial instincts, Schubert likes to put her players through grand, unusual stunts such as performing the tracks for the revivals of silent-movie classics Alexander Nevsky and Intolerance. A typical program, not surprisingly, is heftier and more broad-minded than most at Orchestra Hall. Take the upcoming all-Beethoven concert: its centerpiece is Beethoven's heroic opera Fidelio, but, as a bonus, Schubert has included Symphony no. 7, a centerpiece in its own right. This semistaged and abridged presentation of Fidelto features a cost of both up-and-comers and old-timers: soprano Nancy Pifer has the taxing role of Leonore, a symbol of courage and fidelity; tenor John Swenson sings Florestan, the political prisoner and Leonore's husband; baritone William Diana portrays Don Pizarro, the bad guy; and WFMT's Peter Van de Graaff is Rocco, the kindly jailer. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, Hutchinson Courtyard, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8484.

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

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