Classical Music in Chicago: A Guide

From the Lyric Opera to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, find out where to hear classical music in Chicago.


Chicago is home to a vibrant and diverse classical music scene, with something to offer for everyone. From world-renowned orchestras and opera companies to intimate chamber music ensembles, there is something for everyone in the Windy City.

Whether you are a long-time fan of classical music or just getting started, this guide will help you find the perfect concert or event to suit your taste. With something happening almost every night of the week, you are sure to find something to fulfilling your classical music needs in Chicago.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Founded in 1891, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is one of the world’s leading orchestras. It has a long tradition of excellence in music and is known for its innovative programming. The Symphony performs more than 150 concerts each year, including a subscription series at Orchestra Hall in Chicago and live broadcasts on WFMT Radio. The orchestra also appears regularly at the Ravinia Festival, Tanglewood, and Carnegie Hall. Guest conductors have included Leonard Bernstein, Sir Georg Solti, and Riccardo Muti.

The current Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is Riccardo Muti, who has held the position since 2010. Maestro Muti is one of the most respected conductors in the world and has led some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras. He has made numerous recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, including a Grammy-winning recording of Verdi’s Requiem.

If you’re interested in classical music, you won’t want to miss a chance to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in action. Tickets for concerts can be purchased online or through the box office at Orchestra Hall.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago

The Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of the world’s great opera companies. It was founded in 1954 by Carol Fantasy and Dr. Vladimir Zeffirelli. The company is based in the Civic Opera House, which was built specifically for the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1929. The Civic Opera House is located in downtown Chicago on Wacker Drive.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago presents a full season of operas each year, running from September through May. The operas are performed in their original languages with English supertitles projected above the stage. The company also offers a number of educational programs, including opera appreciation classes and lectures, as well as reduced-priced tickets for students and seniors.

The Chicago Philharmonic

The Chicago Philharmonic is one of the most respected orchestras in the United States. Based in the city of Chicago, the orchestra has a long and storied history dating back to its founding in 1891. The orchestra is composed of some of the most talented classical musicians in the world and is led by an internationally-renowned conductor.

The Chicago Philharmonic performs at Symphony Center, one of the most acoustically-perfect concert halls in the world. Symphony Center is located in the heart of Chicago’s downtown Loop district and is easily accessible by public transportation.

If you’re looking for an unforgettable classical music experience, make sure to catch a performance by the Chicago Philharmonic.

Other Orchestras and Ensembles in Chicago

-Chicago Sinfonietta
The Chicago Sinfonietta is a professional orchestra that was founded in 1987 to provide musical opportunities for minority and female musicians, and to perform a diverse repertoire that reflects the cultural richness of the community. The Sinfonietta is led by Mei-Ann Chen and performs at various venues throughout the Chicago area.

-Elgin Symphony Orchestra
Founded in 1949, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra is the Fox Valley region’s premier musical organization, featuring an array of classical, pops, and children’s concerts each season. The ESO performs at the Hemmens Cultural Center in downtown Elgin.

-Chicago Ensemble
Founded in 1973, the Chicago Ensemble is devoted to chamber music from the Baroque era to contemporary works. The Ensemble performs approximately eight times per season at various venues throughout Chicago.

Contempo is a new music ensemble at the University of Chicago dedicated to performing works by living composers. The ensemble typically gives four concerts per season, featuring both iconic 20th-century works and world premieres by emerging composers.


We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to classical music in Chicago. With so many great orchestras and venues, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re a long-time fan or just getting started, we hope you’ll explore all that Chicago has to offer. Thanks for reading!

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