Ravinia Festival

Ravinia Festival is an enduring music festival that can be dated back to 1904. It is a famous summer music festival which has hosted a wide range of musical performers—from Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald to John Legend. Located in Highland Park,Illinois, Ravinia Festival holds the status of the oldest outdoor music venue in North America.

I have been eyeing the Ravinia Festival since I first heard about it. Luckily, the Arryman Program has arranged free tickets for all the Arryman Fellows this year. A nice way to welcome August in a new country. On July 29th, the Ravinia Festival presented the movie Titanic (1997), while the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played the legendary musical score by James Horner in the background. . . LIVE! I have no musical understanding, but I would say that the music performance was hauntingly beautiful. It was hard not to feel the melancholy as we watched the famous Titanic set sails for New York City, never to come ashore. Shed some tears? Maybe.

For those who wonder what all the fuss is about regarding the Titanic, I quote this paragraph from a National Geographic article:

“For some the sheer extravagance of Titanic’s demise lies at the heart of its attraction. This has always been a story of superlatives: A ship so strong and so grand, sinking in water so cold and so deep. For others the Titanic’s fascination begins and ends with the people on board. It took two hours and 40 minutes for the Titanic to sink, just long enough for 2,208 tragic-epic performances to unfold, with the ship’s lights blazing. One coward is said to have made for the lifeboats dressed in women’s clothing, but most people were honorable, many heroics. The captain stayed at the bridge, the band played on, the Marconi wireless radio operators continued sending their distress signals until the very end. The passengers, for the most part, kept to their Edwardian stations. How they lived their final moments is the stuff of universal interest, a danse macabre that never ends.”

The movie, although fictional, is a story of love, humility, and a divided society. The Titanic was a ship built for three classes, and when it sank the passengers’ fates depended on their designated classes on that supposedly unsinkable vessel.  Only 25 percent of the steerage women made it onto the life boats, while 95 percent of the first class women were rescued. The Titanic has been the object of scrutiny not only because of its superlative story and its death toll but also because of the multiple interpretations of life in that particular era. This story attracts many of us, as Rose’s wish of a classless world is not uncommon. In a compelling review, Nelson Lichtenstein wrote:

“Drifting off into a death slumber, Rose’s heavenly dream is that of a socialist fantasy, in which the proletariat from below decks, along with the few bourgeois of virtue and justice, literally occupy the plush salons of the now departed ruling class”

– Class Struggle Aboard the Titanic (1998)