May 22, 2017

Music festival: ‘An offer you can’t refuse’

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Gangster-style -- not generally the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of a Mozart opera. However, the Southern Illinois Music Festival aims to make this featured performance of the 13th annual festival an unforgettable experience. One might almost say: It’s an offer you can’t refuse. That’s also the festival title this year. 

The two-week festival includes nearly 20 performances -- plus another 10 performances formatted for very young listeners -- at more than a dozen venues in Southern Illinois from Cairo to Carbondale, Murphysboro to Marion. The itinerant nature of the festival has always been an important part of its outreach mission. It is one of the major events of the School of Music at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

The opera (gangster-style) is “Don Giovanni,” a two-act opera based on notorious libertine Don Juan. The music festival performance is in Italian with projected English subtitles. In the opera story, Don Giovanni’s luck runs out as he is involved in a fatal duel that draws down on his head a vow of vengeance, a former conquest warns away a new target, and he captures the ire of a mob. Ultimately, the ghost-animated statue of the man Giovanni killed drags him to Hell. Performances for “Don Giovanni” are June 9 and 11 in Shryock Auditorium. 

The first big event of the festival this year is the “Memorial Day Tribute,” held at the Marion High School auditorium on May 29. The Southern Illinois Music Festival Orchestra and a 30-voice chorus will present patriotic music and a salute to America’s armed forces. The program also includes the 1812 Overture, a musical setting of the Gettysburg Address, the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, God Bless America and more. Admission is free. 

The festival orchestra includes members of the New Chicago Chamber Orchestra and other guest musicians. They bring the professionalism for which the festival is so well known. Three large orchestral concerts, highlighting the music of Dvorak and Tchaikovsky, are set for performance at Carterville High School’s performing arts center. The orchestra presents a violin concerto on June 2, cello concerto on June 3, and the “best of Dvorak and Tchaikovsky” on June 4. 

Go online for the full schedule and for ticket information, including the SIFest pass.