Newsworthy recent events in Chicago music present us with an anomaly: none of them is actually about music. Two major stories (both covered in these pages) are the Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians’ strike and the public backlash against Old Town School of Folk Music’s plan to sell its venerable space at 909 West Armitage. A third story, covered in this issue, is the formation of the Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL), the mission of which is to put the brakes on the Lincoln Yards entertainment complex that threatens to overwhelm some of Chicago’s most beloved music venues. In each case, passions have run high. Clearly, the legacy, policy and sovereignty of our musical institutions are as valuable to us as the actual music they make possible. Accordingly, we devote this year’s Music 45 to those behind-the-scenes players—including club owners, label executives, radio hosts, artists’ reps and more—who too infrequently get a chance to take a bow…
Music Director, Chicago Opera Theater
The figures most associated with Chicago Opera Theater across its forty-five-year history have been male impresarios such as founder Alan Stone and Brian Dickie. With the 2017 appointment of Lidiya Yankovskaya as COT music director, a conductor is the face of the institution and, in fact, the only female music director of a major American opera company. None of that would mean much if the Russian-born Yankovskaya couldn’t deliver the goods. But after only a single season in her new role, her musical presence has revitalized a company that had become a shadow of itself. The Chicago premiere of Jake Heggie’s “Moby-Dick” in April was a major event, in no small part because of Yankovskaya’s elucidation of the score. Russian operas are also a specialty, and the Chicago premiere of Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta” was no less revelatory.