In the midst of the world's largest yearlong celebration of Shakespeare bringing 850 events to more than 500,000 Chicagoans and visitors throughout 2016, Shakespeare 400 Chicago has announced highlights for the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's death on April 23, 2016, a date which also marks the playwright's 452nd birthday. Chicago and the world pay homage to the Bard’s remarkable legacy on this day. Culminating in a spectacular “Celebration of Shakespeare” fireworks display over Lake Michigan set to a Shakespeare-inspired score, the Bard will take center stage in two signature Shakespeare 400 Chicago events on April 23.
Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and Chorus and luminary concert soloists in Verdi's Falstaff at Chicago's Symphony Center, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Amy Rule serve as honorary co-chairs for an event that hosts the city's civic community at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) featuring a special guest performance by Tony, Olivier and Golden Globe winner Alan Cumming. Around the globe the occasion will be marked by "Talk Like Shakespeare Day," a chance for individuals to celebrate Shakespeare's words online and in daily life.
Spearheaded by Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the yearlong Shakespeare 400 Chicago festival unites 60 of the city's world-class institutions, and welcomes scores of leading artists from nations around the world including Australia, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom and beyond. Events spanning theater, opera, music, dance—even cuisine—celebrate, interpret and reimagine Shakespeare's most inimitable works. Highlights range from Barbara Gaines' six-play history saga "Tug of War" at CST and the Shakespeare's Globe production of The Merchant of Venice starring Jonathan Pryce to a Peking Opera version of Hamlet from China (The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan) and Culinary Complete Works featuring 38 of Chicago's top chefs re-imagining Shakespeare's 38 plays in dishes and tasting menus in some of the premiere restaurants across the city.
The April 23rd festivities culminate in a dazzling fireworks display, kicking off at 10:15 p.m., expected to illuminate the Chicago skyline over Lake Michigan from Navy Pier. The show will be underscored by sweeping musical works inspired by Shakespeare. This special display in honor of Shakespeare's Quadricentennial will be the very first of Navy Pier's Aon Firework shows of the season. Chicagoans can snag the best views from the dock or aboard an evening cruise, operating with extended hours especially for the celebration. No other city in the United States plans to stage a spectacle of this magnitude in marking the occasion.
At Chicago's Symphony Center for an 8:00 p.m. performance, more than 2,200 audience members will hear Giuseppe Verdi's final opera Falstaff conducted by world-renowned Verdi interpreter Riccardo Muti, music director of the CSO. The performances of Falstaff in April 2016 actually mark the culmination of Muti's traversal of Verdi's Shakespeare operas with the CSO and Chorus, which also included Otello in 2011 and Macbeth in 2013. Singing the title role is Ambrogio Maestri, dubbed "the most sought after Falstaff singer of his time" by The New York Times.
Later that day, Chicago's civic community will gather at Chicago Shakespeare--including corporate leaders and the heads of the city's cultural institutions. Famed actor of stage and screen Alan Cumming performs on Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Courtyard stage. Known for his Emmy-nominated portrayal of Eli Gold on CBS's The Good Wife and his Tony Award-winning performance as the Emcee in Broadway's Cabaret, Cumming has established himself also as a talented Shakespearean actor, with notable performances in the title roles of Hamlet (Donmar Warehouse), Macbeth (Broadway, National Theatre of Scotland) and Romeo and Juliet (National Theatre Studio). The "Spirit of Shakespeare" Award will honor ComEd President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore.
Finally, Chicagoans and visitors alike will enjoy observing "Talk Like Shakespeare Day," a popular annual event established by Chicago Shakespeare Theater as an occasion for citizens from Chicago and across the globe to bring the words of the playwright into their daily lives. Shakespeare is credited with contributing over 1,700 words and phrases to the English language, which we still use today—including "bedazzled," "swagger" and "new-fangled." Participants can take part in the festivities online at www.talklikeshakespeare.org and engage socially at #TalkLikeShakespeareDay.
For the most up-to-date information about Shakespeare 400 Chicago programming, tickets and event venues, visit www.shakespeare400chicago.com.
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Fireworks at Chicago's Navy Pier (photo by Nick Ulivieri).