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Entries : Ravinia


The Ravinia Festival is a 36-acre international performance and education center in Highland Park devoted to classical and contemporary music. Its open-air pavilion seats 3,350; the grounds can accommodate approximately 15,000.

Entrance to Ravinia, 1931
Ravinia Park was founded in 1904 by an electric railway operator who hoped patrons would come to its open-air pavilion and amusements by interurban. In 1910, after the park went into receivership, patrons organized a campaign directed by Chicago philanthropist Louis Eckstein to purchase the grounds and establish the Ravinia Company (1911). Its reconstituted musical repertoire added opera, Eckstein's passion, for which the company gained acclaim. Bankruptcy forced the company's failure in 1931. Reorganized as the Ravinia Festival Association, it reopened on July 3, 1936. Eckstein's widow bequeathed the grounds to the festival in 1944, with the provision that it remain devoted to classical music.

After fire destroyed the original pavilion in 1949, the festival expanded its scope to regain its international recognition. Walter Hendl, associate conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, served as the first artistic director (1959–1963). Esteemed music directors followed: Seiji Ozawa (1964–68), James Levine (1971–1993); Christoph Eschenbach (1995–2004); and James Conlon (from 2005). Benefiting from refurbished and newly constructed indoor and open-air performance spaces, the festival operates year-round. The Steans Institute for Young Artists (1988) attracts students and faculty worldwide.

Ebner, Michael H. “North Shore: Patron of Ravinia Park.” Chicago History 16.2 (Summer 1987): 48–63.
Weingartner, Fannia. Ravinia: The Festival at Its Half Century. 1985.