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by mbreen 07.23.2009
Posted In: Opera at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
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Your 2009 Opera Idol

Last night before the sold-out opening performance of Cincinnati Opera's performance of Carmen, soprano Margaret Russo was named the winner of the first "Opera Idol" contest. Russo — a 25-year-old copywriter from Zionsville, Ind. — will receive a $3,500 contract with Cincinnati Opera.

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by Steven Rosen 11.10.2008
Posted In: Opera at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

The Met in a Movie Theater

On Saturday afternoon, I attended my first "Met Opera: Live in HD" transmission at the Regal Cinema in Deerfield Township — John Adams' Doctor Atomic.

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by Rick Pender 11.20.2011
Posted In: Opera, Theater at 06:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Joshua Jeremiah

Cincinnati-Trained Singer Is Making a Name

From CCM to New York City Opera

For several years Joshua Jeremian seemed to be onstage everywhere in Cincinnati. He was a regular in opera productions at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, where he was pursuing a master’s degree and then an artist’s diploma (additional graduate-level training) as an opera singer. But he was glad to find performing opportunities with many Cincinnati perfroming arts institutions. In 2005 he played a pair of princes in Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati’s holiday musical, Sleeping Beauty. (In fact, the big-voiced baritone was nominated for a 2006 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for his performance at ETC.)

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by Rick Pender 06.18.2011
Posted In: Opera at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Opera Season Begins

Not much theater as summer gets rolling locally, but it is time for Cincinnati Opera, which opened its 91st season on Thursday with a production of Verdi's Rigoletto. It's a tragic story about a foolish father who tries to protect his daughter by hiding her away from the world, leading to her death.

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by Drew Klein 11.18.2013
Posted In: Opera, Performance Art at 10:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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REVIEW: Nico Muhly's 'Two Boys' (Metropolitan Opera, New York)

CAC performance curator Drew Klein reports from NYC

The main event Thursday evening was not a part of Performa 13. Instead, the evening saw my virgin visit to the Metropolitan Opera to take in the final night of composer (and frequent Cincinnati visitor) Nico Muhly's Two Boys. Muhly became the youngest composer to be commissioned by the Met when they asked him to create a new work in 2006. Having a run in 2011 in London in a co-production with English National Opera, Two Boys finally made its American debut last month.

Based on true events in Manchester, England, 10 years ago, the story centers on a seemingly normal 16-year-old boy and his involvement in a confusing web of chat room relationships that ultimately lead to him stabbing and nearly killing a 13-year-old boy. It was, shall we say, not your standard opera fare. While I've not been to many an opera in my life thus far, I don't imagine there have been many to have featured projected chat acronyms and two separate instances of onstage masturbation. But on to the show.

The story of Two Boys is a complicated one, without question. A young boy has been stabbed, his friend and the only witness, Brian, is the key suspect, and an over-worked and under-appreciated police detective is tasked with putting the pieces together in a case she never wanted to take. As we begin to learn more about Brian, we are shown a world of chat room conversations and desperate boys seeking connections that mean something. By the end, we understand that the young boy pretended to be three different people in various roles and chats with Brian, concocting an insanely complex story before, essentially, convincing Brian to stab him while he would repeat, “I love you, bro” to the dying boy. Everyone has access to a search engine, so I'll let you look up the story on your own...

A certain triumph for Two Boys is the set design and realization of an online world on a physical stage. Multiple large-scale projections land upon movable walls that dance across the stage at various depths. Frequently these walls become transparent and reveal young people inside, half-illuminated by laptop screens. The multimedia execution inspired and amazed, serving to highlight the production's digital world concept and add a new and exciting layer to a traditional performance form.

Knowing Muhly's work rather well, and having enjoyed the chance to see him twice in Cincinnati in the past 18 months as part of MusicNOW and Tatiana Berman's Constella Festival, I was eager to hear what he had done for Two Boys. I was somewhat surprised — though pleased — to find that this work did not veer too far from his compositional oeuvre; dark with intricate rhythms, the score never threatens to take complete control of the production, while the influence of modern composers like Benjamin Britten and Meredith Monk, as he acknowledged in the program notes, could be felt throughout. For me, the standout compositional moments came in the form of choral scenes performed by the company carrying laptops in their hands, faces lit and animated by the screens, feeling like a reference to the pull of the digital world and the countless hours young people like Brian spend seeking something of meaning in an environment of empty promises. Multi-layered lines repeating chat room requests and responses, the voices build to a disorienting swirl. In these moments, the marriage of precocity, tradition, and progressivism felt too immense to not hold your breath.

 
 
by Rick Pender 06.18.2010
Posted In: Theater, Opera at 01:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Stage Door: Fantasticks and Opera Gala

The Cincinnati Playhouse's production of The Fantasticks is a great choice for theater this weekend, but you might have a hard time finding seats. I've had two friends tell me they tried to get in and were told that the performance they hoped for was sold out. You can try to get on a waiting list (box office number is 513-421-3888) for a show that's really worth seeing.

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by Anne Arenstein 07.22.2014
Posted In: Opera at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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REVIEW: Cincinnati Opera's 'La Calisto'

Continues through July 27 at SCPA

Don't walk. Run to the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) to catch the remaining performances of La Calisto, an opera composed in 1653 that's equal parts romance and raunch, performed by a superb cast of singers, instrumentalists and dancers who are all clearly having a wonderful time.

Composer Franceso Cavalli was savvy enough to take opera out of palaces and into public theaters, where he made a fortune. He used the story of virgin Calisto, a follower of the goddess Diana, who is seduced by Jove and transformed into a bear by the vengeful Juno. Diana has her own problems with hormones and so does another of her followers. There's not much sacred and a lot of profane, not to mention profanity.

There's a lot of transformation going on: Jove disguises himself as Diana to get it on with Calisto, meaning that bass baritone Daniel Okulitch puts on a long white robe, dons a wig and sings in convincing falsetto. A horny follower of Diana is sung by a male, a high soprano takes on the role of a frustrated satyr — and just what gender are the rest of Pan's satyrs and Diana's huntresses? Ted Huffman's staging is witty and occasionally wild; the battle between Pan's and Diana's tribes seems to involve more than the six or seven dancers onstage, thanks to the acrobatic choreography of Zack Winokur.

Okulitch sings Jove with the requisite authority and gravitas, which also renders him ridiculous when lust for Calisto overtakes him. Okulitch is equally adept singing in falsetto, which is no easy task when it involves vocal ornamentation. Andrew Garland, a great recitalist with innate comic instincts, is a natural as Jove's gofer Mercury.

Aaron Blake may be diminutive in stature but he has a huge, ringing tenor, and he was a hilarious Pan. Michael Maniaci sang Diana's lover Endymion, his pure male soprano giving the role genuine tenderness. Lyric tenor Thomas Michael Allen sang the role of libidinous nymph Linfea.

The women are all excellent, especially soprano Nathalie Paulin, a convincingly innocent Calisto. Mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano was a formidable Diana, singing with authority and melting emotion. Alisa Jordheim's agile soprano easily handled the demands of the frustrated Satirino, and Alexandra Deshorties embodies vengeance and fury as Juno.

The chamber orchestra is joined by the phenomenal Catacoustic Consort and during intermission, a lot of the audience stopped by the orchestra pit to check out the theorbos, Baroque harp, lirone and viola da gamba. Conductor David Bates led a lively, nuanced reading of the score.

The action plays out on a unit set used for last year's Galileo Galilei, with a wonderful star curtain that descends as Calisto ascends to the heavens to become Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper.

La Calisto is Cincinnati Opera's first Baroque opera and they couldn't have made a better choice. It's heavenly.


La Calisto, presented by Cincinnati Opera, continues July 23, 25 and 27 at SCPA's Corbett Theater. More info here.

 
 
by Anne Arenstein 07.01.2015 61 days ago
Posted In: Opera at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover_morning-star-illustration_courtesy-cincinnati-opera

Review: Morning Star World Premiere

Cincinnati Opera presented debut performance Tuesday night

Morning Star, the new opera by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist William Hoffman, had its world premiere last night before a near-capacity audience in the School for Creative and Performing Arts’ Corbett Theater. Based on a 1940 play by Sylvia Regan, the story follows a Jewish immigrant family in the early decades of the 20th century. Think of it as a follow-up to the Tevye family from Fiddler on the Roof coming to America and having to abandon all that tradition.

Morning Star was originally commissioned by Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Goodman Theater but was dropped when artistic differences killed the collaboration. In 2012, Opera Fusion: New Works offered Gordon and Hoffman the opportunity to rework Morning Star. The final result is light-years from what was heard in workshops, but to paraphrase a line from the opera, the story abides.

Gordon writes beautifully for the voice and his score has moments of dramatic intensity, playfulness and heartbreaking beauty. He’s a favorite among American singers, so it’s not surprising how great the singing is — but that’s also thanks to Ron Daniel’s staging.

Daniels also guided the shaping of the piece, strengthening the drama and developing characters. But there are still problems with the libretto. Many of Hoffman’s images and lines are poetic but much of the rhymed verses are more distracting than descriptive. But when he nails it, the words and music are a gorgeous synthesis.

The Triangle Shirtwaist fire in Manhattan serves as a framing device and a looming presence. On March 25, 1911, the Triangle erupted in flames, killing 146 workers — mostly young immigrant women who were trapped by locked doors, non-functioning elevators and broken fire escapes.

The opera’s prologue is a brilliant evocation of the public viewing of the victims in the factory, which took place during a torrential downpour. Against a background of images from that day, singers clad in raincoats and holding black umbrellas recite accounts of what took place as the music swirls into a collective moan.

The Triangle Shirtwaist fire serves as a framing device and a looming presence. In March 1911, the Triangle erupted in flames, killing 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women, who were trapped by locked doors, non-functioning elevators, and broken fire escapes.

The opera’s prologue is a brilliant evocation of the public viewing of the victims in the factory, which took place during a torrential downpour. Against a background of images from that day, singers clad in raincoats and holding black umbrellas recite accounts of what took place as the music swirls into a collective moan.

Widow Becky Felderman presides over her family of three teenaged daughters and a young son. Like many immigrant families, the Feldermans have a border, Aaron, who happens to come from the same village and is a friend of the family. He also happens to be in love with Becky.

It’s a terrific cast made up of some of the best American voices out there. Jeanine De Bique stole the show as Pearl with a velvety, lyric mezzo that elevated her aria “I See Colors” into a showpiece. Soprano Twyla Robinson’s Becky has a sweetness tempered by determination and she’ll break your heart when she sings “The Family Abides.”  The daughters get powerful performances from Elizabeth Zharoff, Jennifer Zetlan and Elizabeth Pojanowski.

Andrew Bidlack sings the title song with great style. Andrew Lovato is a sensitive and sympathetic Harry Engel, the unhappy husband of Sadie Felderman. Morgan Smith is an amazing baritone and I wish that Aaron’s character had more depth, but Smith makes it his own and it’s worth hearing.

Riccardo Hernandez’s scenic design incorporates the Triangle factory and Wendall K. Harrington’s projections are used to great effect, particularly in the prologue and in the final ensemble in which the fire claims its victims.

Is it perfect? No. But it’s got staying power, a score with a lot of memorable music, and this production features voices you should hear. Bravo to Cincinnati Opera and Opera Fusion: New Works for fostering this project.

And damned if I can’t get that song “Morning Star” out of my head.

MORNING STAR continues through July 19 at SCPA’s Corbett Theater. More info: cincinnatiopera.com.

 
 
by Anne Arenstein 07.10.2015 52 days ago
Posted In: Opera at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover_don-pasquale-illustration_courtesy-cincinnati-opera

Review: Cincinnati Opera's Don Pasquale

The production continues Saturday

Cincinnati Opera's Don Pasquale was a delight and, so far, the season’s best overall production. Burak Bilgili’s Pasquale and Alexey Lavrov’s Malatesta share the honors for outstanding performances and the entire enchilada (as Peter Schickele would say) was directed by Chuck Hudson, with production elements and costumes built by Arizona Opera.

The setting is 1950s Hollywood and Don Pasquale is a silent film star trying to make a comeback by marrying a starlet. We get Don’s backstory through a series of black-and-white film clips of his biggest hits, press notices and his subsequent failures in talkies and as a director. They’re brilliantly effective and the opening segments are in synch with the overture.

Pasquale’s black-and-white environment takes on color as he decides to seek a bride, and by Act II, the only gray spot is Pasquale himself.

Burak Bilgili brought crisp articulation and robust presence to the aging Pasquale. He’s a gifted comic and he handled the physical demands (and there were plenty) moving gracefully across the stage. His foil Malatesta was Polish baritone Alexey Lavrov; the phrase "silky elegance" is the best descriptor of his voice. Since he’s scheduled to sing this role at the Met, it doesn’t look like he has to worry about future gigs, but if he ever does, he’s got a great future as Dracula — he can handle a cape with the best of them.

Tenor Ji-Min Park sang Ernesto with clarity and sweetness, especially “Com’e Gentil” but the stage business covered up a lot of the loveliest passages. Eglise Gutierrez broke her ankle earlier in the week, but she navigated the stage in such a way that unless you saw her wearing a slightly different slipper, you wouldn’t suspect anything was amiss. But something was because she was a restrained Norina and I frequently couldn’t hear her. She might have been in a lot of pain and backstage, she had on a boot, so I’m more than willing to give her a break. One hopes she'll notch it up by Saturday.

Richard Buckley led a lively reading of this delightful score. Hudson’s staging is based on his studies with Marcel Marceau and the best example of that was the staging “Com’e Gentil.” It was hilarious (the long arm reaching for Pasquale’s keys) but it upstaged the aria. Oh well. The audience loved it. The actors proved to be deft comedians, especially Park, whose wonky Ernesto can’t do anything right. Of course the revenge duet got an encore.

Fun, fun, fun. And with a ‘50s setting, there might have been a T Bird lurking backstage.


DON PASQUALE continues Saturday. For info here.

 
 
by Anne Arenstein 11.06.2014
Posted In: Opera at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
corbetts

Corbett Foundation's Final Gift Goes to CCM's Opera Department

In August, the Corbett Foundation announced it was closing shop, ending one of the city's most generous streams of philanthropy. It turns out that there was still one more gift in the hopper.

On Tuesday, The University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music's J. Ralph Corbett Distinguished Chair of Opera received the final award of $1 million, a gift that will provide additional support for scholarships, touring productions, an archive and partial support of the named professorship currently held by Robin Guarino.

CCM's Opera Department is one of the nation's finest. Two of its recent graduates were winners in the Metropolitan Opera's national auditions, and its alumni perform in theaters all over the world.

Robin Guarino is one of the most sought-after directors and has staged productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Indiana University, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, San Francisco Opera and Brooklyn Academy of Music. 

 
 

 

 

 
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