French Cuisine, Art, Music Makes for Romantic Night
Vitello, Barbara, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Barbara Vitello Daily Herald Staff Writer
When it comes to culture and history, France ranks among the most important countries in the western world. But when it comes to romance, it is - with the possible exception of Italy -without equal.
Alas, for lovers of art, music, fine cuisine and romance, a trip abroad is trifle expensive. So, if you are a Francophile whose MasterCard won't tolerate a trip overseas, here are ways to enjoy a bit of "la vie a la francais" here at home.
Musical delights: We begin this French excursion with the music of Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). Inspired by Impressionists Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Paul Cezanne, Debussy - whose works are characterized by exotic harmonies and unconventional forms - created the musical counterpart to their Impressionist paintings.
Impressionism also inspired Messiaen, a 20th century French composer whose style also incorporated eastern harmonies and Gregorian chant.
David Robertson conducts the Civic Orchestra of Chicago in a performance of Debussy's "Jeux: poeme danse" and Messiaen's "Turangalila Symphonie" at 8 p.m. Feb. 4 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Admission is free, but tickets are required and are limited to four per request. Fax requests to (312) 294-3035 or charge by phone at (312) 294-3000 ($2 service charge for all phone orders).
Although French composer Charles Gounod (1818-1893) is best known for sacred music (including his adaptation of "Ave Maria" from Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier"), he also composed the masterful opera "Faust" as well as "Romeo et Juliette," which is the next production for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Performances begin Saturday at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, and continue through Feb. 28. Matinees are at 2 p.m., evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $27 to $125. (312) 332-2244, ext. 500.
And... Singer (and Paris native) Claudia Hommel celebrates "la Ville Lumiere" in French and American song from 7 to 10 p.m. today at Froggy's French Cafe, 306 Green Bay Road, Highwood. (847) 433-7080.
Artistic delights: You don't have to visit the Louvre to see French masterworks. The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., boasts one of the finest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in the world. Its permanent collection includes masterworks by Monet ("Water Lilies" and "Grainstacks") Pierre Renoir ("Two Sisters, and "Jugglers at the Circus Fernando"), Georges Seurat ("A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884"), Gustave Caillebotte ("Paris Street, Rainy Day") and Henri Matisse ("Bathers by the River").
Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and students and includes a tour of the collections that begins at 2 p. …