Benanti, Hudson, O'Hara, Patinkin et al. Set for Ravinia Fest. in 2011

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Ravinia Festival's 2011 Gala Benefit Evening will celebrate legendary American composer George Gershwin with a program including his most beloved music at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 23. This performance commemorates the 75th anniversary of Gershwin's Ravinia performance by recreating the concert, which in 1936 had audiences climbing into the trees to catch a glimpse of the musical genius. Ravinia Festival Music Director James Conlon will lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 75-minute concert, which features renowned Gershwin interpreters vocalists Kelli O'Hara, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Sylvia McNair and pianist Kevin Cole

The program features Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris and Cuban Overture, replicating
Gershwin's 1936 Ravinia concert. Hosted by the Ravinia Women's Board, the annual Gala is the
only performance fundraiser benefiting the not-for-profit festival's mission, especially its efforts to
bring music back to the schools through its REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs.

Concert-only tickets are available, and pavilion and lawn audiences who do not purchase
tickets to the Gala dinner are welcome to enjoy the evening on the lawn following the concert.

"It seemed almost kismet in a year when Ravinia celebrates the 75th anniversary of the  Chicago Symphony Orchestra's summer residency, that it is also the 75th anniversary of the George
Gershwin concert that has been legendary in the festival's history," said Ravinia President and CEO
Welz Kauffman. "I cannot think of a better way to celebrate this American icon, than to have one of America's greatest orchestras perform his works alongside Gershwin interpreters Kevin Cole, Sylvia McNair, Kelli O'Hara and Brian Stokes Mitchell."

Tickets for the black-tie Women's Board Gala dinner, including priority seating for the
concert, are available to individual benefactors for $750. Tables of 10 are sold at tiered prices from $7,500 to $50,000. For more information or to purchase tickets to the benefit dinner, please call 847-266-5045 or visit gala@ravinia.org. Concert-only tickets, priced at $70-$100 for pavilion and $15 for lawn, are available for purchase exclusively at ravinia.org

Additionally, the festival's 2011 lineup has been announced and includes combining a roster of Ravinia favorites with a "who's who" of chart-toppers making festival debuts. The season, running June 9 through Sept. 11, features the debuts of Jennifer Hudson, Maroon 5, Five For Fighting and Deep Purple and the return of Robert Plant, Carrie Underwood, Wynton Marsalis and Pink Martini, sharing an evening with Ramsey Lewis, artistic director of Jazz at Ravinia. Broadway names to grace the fest in addition to Brian Stokes Mitchell and Kelli O'Hara include Mandy Patinkin and Laura Benanti. Tickets are available now with a Ravinia donation; see Ravinia.org for more details. Public ticket online sales begin on April 27.

"What makes Ravinia so unique is that it truly is a festival in every sense of the word," Kauffman said. "I love that, in the span of one week, music-lovers can experience Chicago Children's Choir, The Judds, The Moody Blues, Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis, Robert Plant and a showcase of the jazz musicians from our own summer conservatory, the Steans Music Institute, and still have more than 100 events of the season left. It truly is a something-for-everyone venue, and as they say about Chicago weather, stick around because tomorrow will be different."

Ravinia showcases rhythm and blues with the festival debut of Chicago native Jennifer Hudson on July 16. Beginning her career as one of the finalists on American Idol, she made waves for her role in the movie version of the musical Dreamgirls, winning the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actress. Hudson's self-titled debut album won the Grammy for Best R&B Album in 2008. Mixing R&B with progressive rock, The Moody Blues have sold over 50 million albums worldwide and have been awarded 14 platinum and gold discs. Their legendary hit "Nights in White Satin" has returned to the UK rock charts, reaching number two on the list, after a performance on the UK show The X Factor, making it the fourth time it has charted in its 40-year history. The band returns to Ravinia on June 11.

Ravinia echoes with jazz sounds throughout the summer, including Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on June 12. Comprising 15 of the finest jazz soloists and ensemble players today, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has been the Jazz at Lincoln Center resident orchestra since 1988, featured in all aspects of the New York center's programming. They are lead by iconic jazz trumpeter and music director Wynton Marsalis. Legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck returns with his sons for a special Father's Day concert on June 19. A Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and 2009 Kennedy Center honoree, Brubeck is most famous for his classic hit "Take Five." Combining classical,  jazz and pop, Pink Martini has enjoyed success on the charts including its 2004 release Hang on Little Tomato, which made Amazon.com's number-one best-sellers list and the 2009 album Splendor in the Grass, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. The group joins the Ramsey Lewis Trio for a double bill on July 10. Fresh from his Kennedy Center premiere of his Abraham Lincoln-inspired, Ravinia-commissioned 2009 work Proclamation of Hope, Lewis performs his newest piece, Colors: the Ecology of Oneness. July 10 also features the Terlato Wines Picnic Contest, a fun and creative way for Ravinia fans to generate their version of the ultimate picnic. Iconic singer Tony Bennett returns to Ravinia on Aug. 26,
celebrating his 85th birthday year. A Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winner and a

Opera superstar Nathan Gunn appears alongside Broadway master Mandy Patinkin on Aug. 31. Featured in People magazine's 2008 list of "The Sexiest Men Alive," baritone Gunn has performed in opera houses around the world and last appeared at Ravinia in the festival's production of
Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.

Tony-award winner Patinkin has appeared in the Broadway productions of Evita, Sunday in the Park with George, The Wild Party, The Winter's Tale and The Knife. Singer and actress Laura Benanti makes her festival debut in a one-woman show on Aug. 27. Benanti was honored with the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards and a Drama League nomination for her portrayal of Louise in the Broadway revival of  Gypsy. She recently appeared as Candela on Broadway in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

For more information and tickets to the Ravinia Festival, including a complete line-up of event, visit www.ravinia.org

Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WM Photos

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