There’s nothing like seeing violinist Joshua Bell in the spotlight — just him and his Strad. But when it comes to classical music, there’s more than one way to wield a bow. And in recent years, soloists, ensembles, and orchestras have all worked outside the box to energize themselves and engage audiences, popping up in unusual venues or collaborating with nonmusical artists to transform conventional concerts into special events. As the new year rolls in, there’s ample opportunity to experience classical music in a fresh, fun way.
The Mozart Effect Live! 35 years ago, Miloš Forman’s film “Amadeus” made the holy terror from Salzburg a star in a whole new way and the soundtrack became one of the best-selling classical recordings ever. If you haven’t revisited the music lately, this performance by the Chicago Philharmonic may be just the ticket. Accompanied by high-def video and visual effects, the program will both reinvigorate (think: Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro”) and soothe (“Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”). Jan. 11, starting at $55, Harris Theater Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph; harristheaterchicago.org
Bugs Bunny at the Symphony Not long before Leonard Bernstein got kids hooked on the classics with his televised Young People’s Concerts, Looney Tunes was giving their ears an education. Riffing on the likes of Wagner, Strauss, and Tchaikovsky, the scores of studio pros Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn brought a surprisingly sophisticated — and very effective partner — to the shenanigans of the whole crew, from the rascally rabbit to Porky Pig. Perfect for kids (and you, too), this cartoon-accompanied concert by the Warner Bros. Symphony Orchestra will have you whistling Rossini in no time. Jan. 18, starting at $30, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, cso.org
Too Hot To Handel The composer’s heartfelt “Messiah” oratorio was first performed for Easter, not Christmas. So not to worry that this jazz-gospel rendition arrives after the last candy cane has been consumed. Another interesting fact: It’s tradition to rise for the “Hallelujah” chorus, which is good news, because it’s tough to sit still for this reimagining of the baroque masterpiece. Conceived by composer Marin Alsop and first presented in 2006, the performance features a 100-voice choir led by Bill Fraher, director of concert choirs at Old St. Patrick’s Church, and a chamber orchestra and jazz band led by Michigan Opera Theatre assistant music director, Suzanne Mallare Acton. Jan. 18-19, starting at $29, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells; auditoriumtheatre.org