In Wednesday’s (8/26) Wall Street Journal, Barrymore Laurence Scherer writes, “In 1904 the budding Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad, a pioneer in interurban transportation, built the Ravinia amusement park north of Chicago as a way to increase ridership. … But Ravinia itself has evolved from a local pleasure dome into an internationally famous music festival. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s summer home since 1936, the Ravinia Festival programs an exceptional variety of performances, from symphony, chamber music, opera and dance to evenings of musical theater, pop and rock.” When the festival hired Welz Kauffman as CEO in 2000, he “had never actually run anything,” writes Scherer, but “no sooner did Ravinia engage him than Mr. Kauffman started to move and shake. The first program entirely under his wing included a tribute to the Second Viennese School—hardly your conventional summer fare—and Mr. Kauffman launched a five-year Stephen Sondheim tribute … In that first year, ¬according to Ravinia’s official tabulations, Mr. Kauffman broke Ravinia’s attendance ¬record, and he has continued to build on that almost every season—attendance for the past several summers has regularly exceeded the 600,000 mark. … In 2004, the festival’s centennial season, Mr. Kauffman commissioned four musical works celebrating the railroad that regularly passes in the night.”

Posted August 26, 2009