The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance of Verdi’s Aida with full orchestra, chorus and eight soloists was a spectacular experience for an enthusiastic audience. All elements were woven together to present a dramatic story set in ancient Egypt to the most glorious music in the symphonic repertoire. Devoid of spectacular staging, the listener was able to appreciate fully the beautifully conducted opera.

To celebrate the Chicago Symphony Chorus, the League’s annual Endowed Concert Reception followed the Aida performance June 23 in Grainger Ballroom, through the generous support of its members and other CSOA family. Jeff Alexander, president of the CSOA, honored Chorus Director Duain Wolfe for 25 years of stellar leadership of the Chicago Symphony Chorus.

Alexander commended Wolfe for his more than 150 programs at both Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival. Wolfe, who established his reputation in Colorado before his Chicago appointment in 1994, has won two Grammy Awards (Best Choral Performance and Best Classical Album) for the CSO’s recording of Verdi’s Requiem with Riccardo Muti on the CSO Resound label. In recognition of his contribution to the professional choral arts, Wolfe received the Michael Korn Founders Award in 2012 from Chorus America.

In his remarks, Wolfe made an apt connection to Caliban’s words from Shakespeare’s The Tempest:

The Isle is full of noises
Sounds and sweet airs
that give delight and hurt not.

Wolfe went on to say his artistic dreams have been shaped by song through “sweet airs that hum.” Always gracious, he applauded the excellence of the chorus for its dedication and ability to range from pianissimo to fortissimo in just a few measures.

Certainly that was achieved in the harmonious hymn introducing Act 3 where first the men and then the women conjured up a magical starlit night at the Temple of Isis. The introduction of Act 2 featured the dramatic sounds of the famous people’s chorus, “Gloria all’Egitto.”

Kudos to all the outstanding performers who contributed their talents to make this performance of Aida so thrilling; as Amneris, mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili was particularly haunting. All of that magic was sustained by Maestro Riccardo Muti, whose love of Verdi was felt in every note.