To paraphrase a line from one of this year’s finest plays, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” when it comes to Chicago’s visual and performing arts scene of 2014. Thankfully, this piece focuses on the good with a list of the Top 10 Cultural Events reviewed in this column this year.
The Best in Music
In February, opera-goers were treated to a pitch-perfect production of The Barber of Seville starring Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, Baritone Nathan Gunn and tenor Alek Shrader at the Civic Opera House thanks to Lyric Opera Chicago. Runner up: The Gospel Sunday Breakfast featuring the Deliverance Singers served up a lot of smiles and soul at Summer on Southport in July.
The Best in Dance
With story by the Brothers Grimm, choreography by Angelin Preljocaj, music by Gustav Mahler and costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier, Ballet Preljocaj debuted a hauntingly beautiful Snow White at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in May. Runner up: This fall, the Joffrey Ballet Company debuted a French Impressionist-inspired Swan Lake choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon with Tchaikovsky’s score performed live by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.
The Best in Art
From April to August, the country received its first retrospective of Isa Genzken at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago which curated photography, paintings, installations and more from the contemporary German artist’s 40-year career. Runner up: The Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938 displayed more than 100 pieces by the Belgian Surrealist from June through October.
The Best in Film
The New York Film Critics Series gave Chicagoans a sneak preview of Locke along with a pre-taped interview with its star Tom Hardy at the Music Box Theatre in April. Runner up: The historic cinema also offered an exclusive one-night screening of the documentary Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets in November.
The Best in Theater
Audiences could hear “’Tis a far far better thing…” and other famous Charles Dickens lines in Christopher M. Walsh’s adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities performed by Lifeline Theatre from March through April. Runner up: Henry Fielding’s novel Tom Jones came to bountiful life via the Northlight Theatre production adapted by Jon Jory in January and February.
Now onto 2015…