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May Festival gets ready to sing

By Rick Pender · May 5th, 2004 · Fine Tuning

If you haven't ever experienced the power of 150 voices singing in unison, you'll want to snag a couple of tickets now for the upcoming MAY FESTIVAL concerts, May 21-29. This year marks the 25th anniversary of music direction by conductor JAMES CONLON. That might sound like a long time (well, it is), but it's only a small segment of the 131 years that the all-volunteer chorus has made music here in Cincinnati. Did you know, for instance, that Music Hall, where the May Festival still happens in Over-the-Rhine, was built back in 1878 specifically for the festival? The two-week celebration opens with Handel's Messiah May 21, followed on Saturday evening with an all-Wagner program; he's the composer who wrote the "Ride of the Valkyries." On May 23, the program moves from Music Hall to Covington's Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, conducted by JAMES PORCO, who's marking his 15th season as the director of May Festival choruses.

That evening's a mixed program featuring a world premiere, All Things Are Passing by Stephen Paulus, commissioned in Porco's honor by the singers. Tickets: 513-381-3300. ...

Engelbert Humperdinck (no, not that kitschy singer; the composer who lived from 1854 to 1921) wrote a lush, intimate score for the fairy-tale opera HANSEL AND GRETEL, and you can see it staged at UC's College-Conservatory of Music May 13-16. It's directed by a visiting professor, THOMAS DE MALLET BURGESS, from the UK, who says the opera represents a classic struggle between innocence and evil. "This production explores what fairy tales have to teach us about growing up," he says. Produced on CCM's big stage, Corbett Auditorium, the opera will feature a scenic design by PAUL SHORTT, inducted into the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards Hall of Fame in 2002. Shortt says this won't be a quaint German Black Forest, noting the intention of the Brothers Grimm was "to alert and frighten children against the dangers that lurked in their environment. Our interpretation of this cautionary tale is not much different from today's evening news." Tickets: 513-556-4183.



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