CHICAGO — Less than two weeks away from her performance at the University of Chicago, a talented violinist is filled with sorrow.

The Italian instrument Minghuan Xu has been playing for 20 years is gone.

“Losing something like that is completely heartbreaking to me because I’m a professional violinist,” Minghuan Xu said.

Utterly devastated, the violinist says the theft is like “losing my own voice.” 

Worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Xu’s 1758 Nicolas Gagliano violin was loaned to her by a private sponsor. With her prodigious talent, the exquisite instrument has lifted Xu to great heights. 

Husband and pianist Winston Choi says Wednesday morning’s brazen theft on the 1300 block of Plymouth Court in Chicago’s South Loop equally shatters him.

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The theft occurred as Xu, Choi, and their two young children slept in their townhouse.

“Our dog was barking and I just thought it was our neighbor going to work early,” Xu said.

Xu says she fell asleep until a garage motion detector went off, signaling that a stranger was in the house.

“We had family in the house,” Xu said. “We were very worried and scared.”

First District Chicago Police responded to the 911 call. Although authorities searched the home and the garage, the burglar had already fled.

“That’s when I realized my violin was gone,” Xu said. “It was very traumatic for us.”

The thief also made off with an inexpensive violin and her son’s little cello. But Xu says there’s no evidence indicating that the culprit deliberately targeted the high-priced violin.

“I really think it was a random act,” Xu said. “I don’t think it was targeted at all.”

A neighbor’s surveillance camera captured the suspect’s meandering in the parking lot. 

“He had a little video camera showing he had been around outside our garage for about 45 minutes,” Xu said.

The violinist speculated the thief was searching for garage door openers before gaining access to the family’s car.

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“So I just hope that my violin will turn up somehow and it’ll be found and come back to me so I can play on it again,” Xu said.

In the meantime, Xu says she is looking to secure a loaner violin in time for her upcoming performance here at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center on the evening of May 20.