Here’s What To See At the Collaborative Works Festival

The other big classical music event happening this month presents world-class talent in three concerts and a master class.

Chris Walker

Tenor Nicholas Phan kicks off the festival tonight at Poetry Foundation. 

In this annual holdover period when the Grant Park Music Festival is over and Ravinia is winding down but the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera haven’t started up yet, the Beethoven Festival burns a lot of the classical-music oxygen, with dozens of eclectic events and hundreds of performers from all fields, on a schedule so densely packed they schedule dinner breaks. But while the Beethoven Festival is a Jackson Pollock, the Collaborative Works Festival is a Piet Mondrian. The art-song celebration mounted by the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago presents three concerts and one master class, all featuring world-class performers and jewels of vocal chamber music.

The one for those who already have tickets: The CWF’s opening concert, presented in the Poetry Foundation’s intimate 125-seat performance space, sold out in preorders. The lucky ticketholders will hear three collections of songs by Benjamin Britten performed by the soprano Kiera Duffy and the tenor Nicholas Phan. Phan, also CAIC’s artistic director, will sing The Heart of the Matter and emcee the evening. “I get to play Oprah and interview people,” he says. The free concert might have no-shows, so the dedicated can try to fly standby. 9/11 at 7. Free. Poetry Foundation, 61 W Superior.

The one for opera buffs: This year, the countertenor David Daniels, whom you might call the countertenor David Daniels, inaugurates a hopefully annual CAIC tradition of presenting a first-rank vocal recital in its festival. Last season’s Giulio Cesare at the Met, Daniels will be accompanied by Martin Katz, the answer to the SAT analogy countertenors : David Daniels :: accompanists : ___ . “There are very few opportunities to present people like that here,” Phan says. “We want to ensure Chicago has a recital of that stature every season.” 9/12 at 7:30. $20–$40. Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, Harold Washington Library, 400 S State.

The one for the wannabes: Daniels teaches a master class in Curtiss Hall at the Fine Arts Building. Any singer could learn from him, but if you’re one of the six people in the country aspiring to be countertenors, it’s a true-falsetto choice. 9/13 at 1. Free with registration. Curtiss Hall, Fine Arts Building, 408 S Michigan.

The one for folkies: The closing concert presents folk song settings, beginning with Welsh songs set by Beethoven and French songs set by Britten. The centerpiece of the concert is the 20th-century composer Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs, a masterly collection of songs from around the world for female voice and accompanying chamber ensemble (here Eighth Blackbird). “They hit you in the gut—in a good way,” Phan says. “They speak to a primal part of us.” Berio’s settings find tiny little curlicued cul-de-sacs in the songs and explore to stunning effect. “Black Is the Colour (of My True Love’s Hair)” seems to come from a previously undiscovered foreign country halfway between Eastern Europe and Appalachia. 9/15 at 2. $20–$40. Logan Center, U. of C., 915 E 60th.

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