History of Ravinia: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Movies on the Lawn Screen

In 1904, the A.C. Frost Company created Ravinia as an amusement park to lure riders to the fledgling Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Railroad. The amusement park had a baseball diamond, electric fountain and refectory or casino building with dining rooms and a dance floor.

The prairie-style Martin Theatre  is the only building on the grounds that dates back to that original construction. Over 100 years later, Ravinia Festival® is the oldest outdoor music festival in North America. The festival attracts about 600,000 listeners to some 120 to 150 events that span all genres from classical music to jazz to music theater over each three-month summer season. Over the years, the festival has hosted such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, The Ballet Russe, Luciano Berio, Leonard Bernstein, Lucrezia Bori, Dave Brubeck, Pablo Casals, Van Cliburn, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, George Gershwin, José Greco, Jascha Heifetz, John Houseman, Janis Joplin, Yo-Yo Ma, Luciano Pavarotti, Itzhak Perlman, Oscar Peterson, Stephen Sondheim, Isaac Stern and Frank Zappa.

In 1911, Ravinia became primarily a summer venue for classical music. Opera was added to the concert programs in 1912, and by the end of the decade, Ravinia earned a reputation as America’s summer opera capital. During Ravinia’s “Golden Age” of opera, 1919 to 1931, Ravinia audiences heard the greatest singers in the world, including such luminaries as Edward Johnson, Giovanni Martinelli, Claudia Muzio, Rosa Raisa and Tito Schipa.The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has a long history at Ravinia.

Ravinia has hosted the CSO in its summer residency since 1936. George Solti conducted the CSO for the first time at RAvinia in 1954.

This summer, 15 diverse programs, from July 12 through Aug. 19, 2018. There will be eight different conductors, including: Gustavo Dudamel in his long-awaited Ravinia debut, as well as Andy EinhornKen-David Masur, and Joshua Gersen in their simultaneous Ravinia and CSO debuts. With solo performances by superstar vocalists Audra McDonaldNadine Sierra, and Matthew Polenzani; pianists Yuja WangSimon Trpčeski, and Garrick Ohlsson; and violinists Joshua Bell and RSMI’s own Miriam Fried.

You could buy a 2018 10-Punch “Classical Grass Pass”

The 10-punch lawn pass is an easy and economical way to enjoy the classical music season at Ravinia. Get the best deal on the 2018 season now and enjoy the nation’s finest orchestra for only $100.

Ravinia offers Movie Nights and they screen great films with their scores digitally removed so that The Chicago Symphony Orchestra can play them live.  Ravinia presented four film programs in 2018, with video screens in the Pavilion and on the lawn.

Movie Nights

The first movie nights were in 1921. This summer the Film with Orchestra Series offered 3 movies that I love: Vertigo, E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Vertigo Star Kim Novak made a special appearance and introduced the Vertigo Film.

Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips will give a pre-concert discussion at the giant lawn screen about the acclaimed score by Bernard Herrmann and the composer’s relationship to Hitchcock.

On the night of E.T., Astronomers from the Naperville Astronomy Club brought their telescopes to the lawn so audience memebers could get a dazzling glimpse of the moon and other heavenly bodies before the CSO took the stage to play John Williams’s Oscar-winning score.

ETRaiders of the Lost Ark

Before the movie at 6 p.m. experts from the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo brought some of their snakes to Ravinia’s North Lawn and discussed the “slithering, serpentine friends.” Then the movie was shown on the big screen and  Indiana Jones braved his way through “poison arrows, boulders, booby traps, war criminals, and even the wrath of God.”

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Emil de Cou, conductor

My absolute favorite movie night at Ravinia was West Side Story on the Lawn Screen. “There was a place for us” as we watched the tear-jerker West Side Story on the big screen. It was magical as we listened to the live performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing the score of West Side Story at Ravinia on July 17, 2014.

The legendary music is by Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and conception and choreography by Jerome Robbins.

It was perfectly executed by the CSO. The iconic story of socially and ethnically mismatched soul mates was inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet.

The Ravinia Festival is the oldest outdoor music festival in the United States. It opened in 1904 and it is located in Highland Park Illinois.

This year, the CSO: Bernstein’s MASS was “The Bernstein Event of the Year”

Leonard Bernstein was commissioned to create Mass for the opening of the Kennedy Center by the late president’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop, conductor
Kevin Newbury, director
Paulo Szot, baritone (Celebrant)
Street Chorus and Altar Children(click to see full list)
Chicago Children’s Choir
Highland Park High School Marching Band
Creative Staff (click to see full list)

I loved watching West Side Story on the big screen at Ravinia. The 1961 movie directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins; an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical. The story is set in the summer of 1957 in the Lincoln Square neighborhood on the Upper West Side of in New York City.  The film was released on October 18, 1961, and “became the second highest grossing film of the year in the United States. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 10, including Best Picture.

Ravinia 2014

Ravinia 2014

You could hear a pin drop as The Sharks and The Jets captivated the audience at the Ravinia Festival last night.  West Side Story played on the big screen in the Pavilion and on the lawn and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) played the score of the iconic film.

West Side Story

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Rehearsal photo for West Side Story

West Side Story stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris. The film portrays the rivalry between  the Jets, led by Riff, and a the Sharks, a Puerto Rican gang of immigrants led by Bernardo.

Who doesn’t love listening to Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita del Carmen (Rita Moreno) arguing with Bernardo Nunez (George Chakiris) the overprotective brother of Maria (Natalie Wood); as they belt out the advantages of Puerto Rico and the United States in I want to live in “America“.

Every women is awe-struck by Tony (Richard Beymer). We dream of our own version of Tony Wyzek, co-founder of the Jets who works in Doc’s Drug Store; when he passionately sings  “Tonight“.

      • Maria claims “Te adoro Anton” on her fire escape and the whole audience swoons. Why does Hollywood create these damn pipe dreams anyway? What about the bridal shop scene when Tony and Maria fantasize about the wedding. My heart be still!!! By the end of the movie, you need a box of Kleenex. Thank you William Shakespeare.

Here are the lyrics:


      • Only you, you’re the only thing I’ll see forever,
      • In my eyes, in my words and in everything I do,
      • Nothing else but you
      • Ever!


      • And there’s nothing for me but Maria,
      • every sight that I see is Maria.


      • Tony, Tony…


      • Always you, every thought I’ll ever know,
      • Everywhere I go, you’ll be.


      • All the world is only you and me!


      • Tonight, tonight,
      • It all began tonight,
      • I saw you and the world went away.


      • Tonight, tonight,
      • There’s only you tonight,
      • What you are, what you do, what you say.


      • Today, all day I had the feeling
      • A miracle would happen —
      • I know now I was right.


      • For here you are
      • And what was just a world is a star
      • Tonight!


      • (from inside)
      • Maruca!


      • (spoken)
      • I cannot stay. Go quickly!


      • (spoken)
      • I’m not afraid,


      • Please.


      • (kissing her)
      • Good night.


      • Buenas noches.


      • I love you.


      • Yes, yes. Hurry
      • Wait! When will I see you?


      • Tomorrow.


      • I work at the bridal shop across the street.
      • Madam Lucia’s


      • I’ll come there.


      • At closing time. Six o’clock.


      • Yes.


      • Good night.


      • Good night.


      • (calling down)
      • Tony!


      • Ssh!


      • When you come, use the back door.


      • Si.


      • Tony!
      • What does Tony stand for?


      • Anton.


      • Te adoro, Anton.


      • Te adoro, Maria.


      • Good night, good night,
      • Sleep well and when you dream,
      • Dream of me
      • Tonight.
      • Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
      • © 1956, 1957 Amberson Holdings LLC and Stephen Sondheim. Copyright renewed.
      • Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company LLC, Publisher.
      • Buy the


      • vocal selections online! price: $4.25
cover Click here to purchase the West Side Story Vocal Score Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company / Boosey & Hawkes

George Chakiris Cover of George Chakiris

Here are some Wikipedia Factoids:

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), is one of the five legendary American orchestras. It was founded in 1891, and has a home at Orchestra Hall in Chicago.  The musical director is Riccardo Muti, who began his tenure in 2010 and has extended his contract with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra through 2020.

Dr. EveAnn Lovero loves Ravinia and writes Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com

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