Riccardo Muti recalls that when he first heard the music of Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible — “which incorporates everything from elements of Russian Orthodox church music to folk tunes, all with Prokofiev’s distinctive spin, I immediately wanted to do it.” This week, Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Chorus, the Chicago Children’s Choir and guest soloists including acclaimed French actor Gérard Depardieu in the CSO’s first-ever performances of Ivan.
The CSO is using the 1961 oratorio arrangement by Abram Stasevich, drawn from Prokofiev’s music to director Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece “Ivan the Terrible” Parts 1-2. The performances are part of the CSO’s celebration this sea on of the 125th anniversary of Prokofiev’s birth.
Chicago Tribune critic John von Rhein calls the CSO production a complete triumph: “With the full Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, children’s chorus, soloists and the great French actor Gerard Depardieu (portraying the fearsome Czar Ivan IV) all operating at full throttle under the maestro’s command, the performance carried the audience along irresistibly with its neo-primitive power and drive.” For the Chicago Classical Review, critic Lawrence A. Johnson wrote: “This powerhouse performance delivered a highlight of the current music season.” And in the Chicago Sun-Times, critic Hedy Weiss reports: “Prokofiev’s work is a marvel. So is the CSO, as Muti drives them through the scenes in which Ivan ‘s army pursues the Tartars of Kazan, obliterates the aristocratic Boyars, begins to fear his own death and mourns the death of his wife, Anastasia.”
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