Although it's high summer, the big music noise this month comes from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, which has secured the necessary funding to insure the next five years' worth of live opening-night radio broadcasts over the WFMT Radio Network. These exciting broadcasts are essential to promoting opera, in general, and the Lyric Opera, in particular, to a North American listenership. The absence of these broadcasts for several seasons was embarrassing to the Lyric and its funding community—a case of a crystal ball carelessly dropped and shattered. It's good news that this vital radio outreach now is guaranteed through the 2011-2012 season.
The Lyric announcement follows the resumption last spring of live, weekly broadcasts by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra ( CSO ) , also on the WFMT Radio Network, after being off the air for a half-decade; this is another embarrassment to Chicago's cultural leaders and funders, given the CSO's global prominence. Those broadcasts now are underwritten for three years, marking the first time in six years that both the CSO and Lyric Opera will be on the air. The WFMT Radio Network reaches more than 160 markets.
Upcoming musical events of note:
The Great Outdoors—A free concert of selections from American, German, French and Italian opera will be presented by VOX 3 this Saturday ( July 28 ) in the courtyard of Bethany United Church of Christ, 4250 N. Paulina, at 7 p.m. Enjoy selections from The Marriage of Figaro ( Mozart ) , Susannah ( Carlisle Floyd ) , Porgy and Bess ( Gershwin ) , Falstaff ( Verdi ) and This Tender Land ( Copeland ) . Concertgoers are invited to bring a blanket and a picnic supper, although VOX 3 itself will offer lemonade and home-baked treats to all. The Great Outdoors is VOX3's first opera presentation. It's free, but donations are welcome if you like what you hear and see.
Power of the American Popular Song—The Johnny Mercer Foundation, Northwestern University and the American Music Theatre Project host a week of workshops, master classes and performances dedicated to the Great American Songbook. Master writers and performers will lead the Aug. 12-18 series of events, including the following cabaret concerts: Aug. 14, lyricist Craig Carnelia; Aug. 15, writer and singer Amanda McBroom; Aug. 16, composer Andrew Lippa; Aug. 17, showcase of a dozen promising young songwriters; and Aug. 18, a gala closing concert with Brian D'Arcy James saluting the great lyricist Johnny Mercer. All performances are at 8 p.m. at Josephine Louis Theater of Northwestern University ( Evanston ) ; 847-491-7282; $15.
Gerardo Nunez Flamenco Ensemble—Featuring Nishat Khan, this troupe will bring the sights and sounds of flamenco music and dance to the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on July 29 at 6:30 p.m. to close the City of Chicago's Music Without Borders programming for this summer. Free!
Made in Chicago: Home Cooked Jazz—The Pritzker Pavilion hosts another city-sponsored series ( in cooperation with the Jazz Institute of Chicago ) , presenting the following free concerts on Thursdays at 6:30PM: Great Black Music Ensemble: Tribute to Fletcher Henderson, July 26; Dave Specter's Chicago Blues/Jazz Summit I, Aug. 2; Nicole Michelle's Black Earth Orchestra: Tribute to Alice Coltrane with Myra Melford, Aug. 9; Legends and Lions: Ragtime and Beyond, Aug. 16.
Blues/Hip-Hop Intersection—Steppenwolf Traffic series offers a dynamic evening heralding Chicago's own rich blues tradition and its hip-hop continuum, featuring Billy Brand and The Sons of Blues, Sense and various other music, poetry and performance artists; hosted by our friend Sylvia Ewing; Pritzker Pavilion on July 30 at 6:30 p.m.; free.
Meanwhile, the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus complete their 2007 season with a strong series of concerts highlighted by works of Tchaikovsky and Sibelius ( Aug. 1 ) ; Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto ( Aug. 8, Christian Tetzlaff soloist ) ; Mahler's brilliant and challenging Fifth Symphony ( Aug. 10-11 ) ; Beethoven and Chopin ( Aug. 15, with Argentine piano soloist Ingrid Filter ) ; and, on Aug. 17, a closing concert of works dedicated to peace, by Britten, John Adams, Ralph Vaughan Williams and others ( Jonita Lattimore and Nathan Gunn, vocal soloists ) . Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park; 6:30 p.m. except Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; free.
At the Ravinia Festival, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra continues its residency with the return of former music director Christoph Eschenbach, who leads an all-French program on July 27 with sexy Tzimon Barto as piano soloist. Current music director James Conlon returns to the podium for several spectacular programs, among them Mahler's Sixth Symphony, Aug. 8, and a concert performance of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Aug. 11 ( with Patricia Racette, Frank Lopardo, Fred Burchinal, Ning Liang and the Apollo Chorus ) . Also at Ravinia, astonishing soprano Deborah Voigt performs a solo recital in the intimate Martin Theatre, Aug. 23, singing works by Mozart, Verdi, Strauss, Resphighi, Beach and Bernstein; 847-266-5000; $10 ( lawn ) -$75 ( prices vary by event ) .