· attending the largest (at that time) high school in the
United States, ; Evanston Township High School
· experiencing Beverly Sills and John Alexander wowing the crowd in a concert performance of Traviata at the Ravinia festival;
...and dozens more I could list. But none of those count as my favorite
entertainment of all time. Chicago
For that, we must make a pilgrimage to a bygone era of
history when elaborate productions of puppet opera at the Kungsholm provided the public with truly magical evenings of food, music and a child-like sense of wonder. Chicago
But I'm no longer a Chicagoan (at least in terms of legal residence) and have never set foot in
. I was, however, still in school during the heyday of the original Kungsholm and my memories, as partially faded as they are, still warrant a trip down, er, "Faded-memory Lane". Rolling Meadows
So travel back in time with me to the 1960's, to a converted mansion at the corner of Rush and Ontario streets just off Chicago's famed "Magnificent Mile", and let's spend a few minutes re-living the best evening money could buy in the Second City: dinner, and a performance of Tosca for the ages.
The building (the
in a former life) consists of an entryway or foyer separating two wings of the Kungshom complex: a restaurant to your left and a theater to your right. Two large flags, one Swedish, one American, greet us above the entrance. We're just in time for a pre-opera dinner, all included in the ticket price, so we turn left and enter a large dining room dominated in the center by a long, long smorgasboard groaning with authentic Scandinavian cuisine. Of course we can expect a bounty of traditional seafood dishes including the inevitable herring. Not my thing, but help yourself. Hot entrees often include Veal Oscar - now we're talkin'! There will be cheeses and dessert; the latter is what I remember most vividly. I have spent the ensuing forty-five years trying to find lingonberry pie, a delicacy made of one of McCormick Mansion 's national fruits: the delicate, tart, red lingonberry. The pie was lusciously tart-sweet and I've never had a piece of it since then. Sweden
Dinner is over (yes, I did have a second piece of pie - what's it to you?) and it's time for the main event of the evening. We exit the dining room and cross through the foyer into the other half of the complex. Behold: we find ourselves in a scale model miniature replica of the Royal Opera House in
. It's beautiful! And... tiny! How many does it seat? 50? 100? I'm no longer sure, but in my mind's eye we're now comfortably settled into our plush box seats where we regard a curtained stage. Beneath is an orchestra pit in which we see puppets holding various tiny instruments. These are not marionettes; there are no strings in sight. Nor are they mere sock puppets. Rather, they are little dolls, each in a tuxedo or dress, seated in chairs, holding little violins, awaiting -- what? Stockholm
By any chance, is there lingonberry pie?
My book THE OPERA ZOO: SINGERS, COMPOSERS AND OTHER PRIMATES is available from Kendall Hunt Publishing. Order online or by phone from customer service: 1-800-344-9034, ext. 3020.