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
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
Fun, fun, fun. And with a ‘50s setting, there might have been a T Bird lurking backstage.
So let’s talk a little about news today.
In case you like, didn’t see the 500 MLB All-Star Game headlines on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s website today, well, that’s happening. Two-hundred-thousand people are headed downtown. Traffic will be bad. Parking will be worse. Prepare yourself.
All that headache is probably worth it if you own an apartment or house anywhere near downtown and are willing to let some strangers crash there. Average prices to stay in Over-the-Rhine or downtown are more than $500 on room rental site Airbnb. No, that’s not monthly. That’s for one night. It’s a 25-percent increase from prices two months ago. The spike is simple economics — there are few hotel rooms left in town after MLB reserved 95 percent of them during the days around the game. That’s left people searching around in the sharing economy, where costs range from the very affordable for a place out in the ‘burbs to a $4,999 a night three-bedroom house with sweeping views in Bellevue, Ky. That five grand is pretty much a down payment on a house in my neighborhood, but whatever you need to party, I guess.
• The city’s police force is out in full force for the festivities, patrolling downtown by the hundreds. With the nation’s eyes on Cincy, city leaders are stressing the need for calm, professional policing, especially after last weekend’s unrest downtown following a concert injured two officers and lead to several arrests. CPD will be getting some help as well from a mounted unit borrowed from the Columbus police. That unit, paid for by the private group the Cincinnati Police Foundation, will patrol downtown on horses.
• Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown has joined 56 other county clerks in asking Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to call a special session of the state’s legislature in order to take up a law creating religious exemptions to the Supreme Court’s recent decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Brown, and other clerks across the state, say their religious freedoms are being violated because they’re being forced to license a practice they say is against their beliefs. Brown refused to issue any marriage licenses the day the decision came down last month but has since resumed the practice. Other clerks, however, have been more defiant. Casey Davis, who is the county clerk in uh… Casey County (Really? Really.) has refused to grant same-sex marriage licenses. Gov. Beshear met with Davis yesterday and told him to begin granting the licenses or step down from his job. Davis has refused to do either, saying he will go to jail for his religious beliefs if necessary.
• A panel responsible for recommending changes to Ohio’s constitution is considering reforms to the state’s grand jury system following controversial officer-involved shootings here and across the country. The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission is currently mulling recommendations made by the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations convened by Gov. John Kasich last year after the police shooting deaths of John Crawford III in Beavercreek and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, among others. Among those recommendations: requiring judicial oversight in grand jury proceedings, releasing some testimony from proceedings to improve the transparency of the process and requiring grand juries review all officer-involved incidents resulting in death or injury, unless other independent investigations are conducted. Currently, there is some question about whether those changes should be made at the constitutional or legislative level, with lawmakers debating what exactly determines how Ohio’s grand jury system should operate. But whether or not the issue is constitutional or a matter for lawmakers, advocates say, it’s a good time to reconsider the state’s grand jury methods. They haven’t been examined by lawmakers in about 60 years.
• Finally, in national news, after a contentious vote yesterday, South Carolina today officially took down the Confederate flag that had been flying over the grounds of the state capital for more than 50 years.The flag was removed from the dome of the building itself in 2000, and its final banishment from the grounds takes place after the horrific shooting of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston by white supremacist Dylann Roof.
That’s it for me. Enjoy this All Star weekend! Oh, and come join our wiffle ball home run derby at Rhinegeist on Sunday. It’s gonna be fun.
The MidPoint Music Festival today announced a third wave of artists scheduled to perform at the 14th annual event this fall.
Locals Heartless Bastards will headline Friday night's shows at the Christian Moerlein stage, touring in support of their new album, Restless One. The band will join Purity Ring and Matthew E. White on Friday night's schedule, with Saturday performers including Ride and Sylvan Esso. Iron & Wine and Tune Yards highlight Sunday's slate.
MidPoint, which is owned and operated by CityBeat, is scheduled for Sept. 25-27 and once again will take place in and around Over-the-Rhine. The full schedule will be released in the coming weeks.
The festival expects a total of around 125 total artists to perform. So far, the following have been confirmed: Heartless Bastards, Nick Diamonds, Good Graeff, Heat, Nick D' & the Believers, Roadkill Ghost Choir, Ona, The Eagle Rock Gospel Choir, Alanna Royale, Sphynx, Charles Walker Band, EZTV, Miracles of Modern Science, Bailiff, The Ghost Wolves, Wild Ones, Big Scary, Mothers, Xoe Wise, Turbo Fruits, Young Empires, Grandchildren, Forest and The Evergreens, Great Peacock, Kinky Love, Elk Creek, Ancient Warfare, What Moon Things, Bones Jugs N Harmony, Little Racer, GGOOLLDD, No/No, Kid Runner, Chrome Pony, Dirty Fences, Rose Quartz, Jackson Scott, Eclipse Movement, MULTIMAGIC, Sweet & the Sweet Sweets, Dawg Yawp, Gran Bel Fisher, Automagik, Coconut Milk, Jane Decker, Orchards, Kate Wakefield, Little Lights, DAAP Girls, The Yugos, Marcus Alan Ward, The Harlequins, yler Childers & the Food Stamps, Young Heirlooms, Us, Today, Public, Holiday Mountain, The Almighty Get Down, Noah Smith, Leggy.
Weekend passes will be available at a discount rate ($10 off) at the MidPoint Indie Summer concert at Fountain Square this Friday. Saint Motel, The Modern Novas, Grenades!? and Jane Decker will perform. More artists will be announced in the coming weeks. More info: mpmf.com.
Good morning y’all. Here’s what’s up in the news today.
Cincinnati police have asked Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to pursue hate crime charges in connection with an attack on a man at Fountain Square Saturday night. That announcement marks a pronounced change of tone for the police, who earlier said the act did not appear to be racially motivated and that an officer on the scene who called the incident “anti-white” spoke in error. Twenty-seven-year-old Christopher McKnight, who is white, was attacked by several men, all black, following a period of unrest on Fountain Square in which two officers were injured and several arrests were made. Video of the incident taken from a Metro bus appears to show McKnight engaged in a one-on-one fight with another individual at first; soon, however, others also join in. One teen in a red shirt is shown trying to keep others from ganging up on McKnight, dragging another attacker off of him at one point. Soon, though, several teens attack McKnight, who is sometimes on the defensive, other times seen throwing punches. A couple minutes into the video, McKnight is seen getting up, putting one of his shoes back on and stalking back and forth along the sidewalk unaccosted by the crowd, eventually raising his arms in a challenging manner. He then walks out of frame of the camera. The video does not show what started the fight or an apparently later altercation that left McKnight bloodied on the sidewalk. Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell has said he’s recommending Deters pursue the hate crime charge against McKnight’s unidentified attackers. No suspects have been arrested in the incident.
• The national office of the NAACP has filed a U.S. District Court lawsuit against former leadership of Cincinnati’s local chapter, advancing long-running controversy over the city’s branch of the civil rights organization. The drama started when Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman resigned as president last year. Ishton Morton stepped in to take his place, but the national NAACP suspended Morton, his wife and another member, Lettie Reid, from the organization, saying they weren’t focused on civil rights work. The NAACP lawsuit alleges that the three have continued to present themselves as local NAACP leaders despite the fact they are no longer members of the organization, conducting fundraising and spending the branch’s money without national authorization. The national group has asked a federal judge to yank incorporation from Cincinnati’s chapter and order its former leaders, including one-time president Ishton Morton, to pay $300,000 in damages. Morton and his allies say the national office is trying to dictate local affairs at the Cincinnati branch, and he’s vowed to fight the lawsuit. There’s a deep political element in the fight: Some within the local chapter have bristled at the rightward drift of the branch, which started under Smitherman and saw the civil right group allying with staunch conservative groups like the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes. Critics say the chapter’s activities in that time have drifted away from civil rights advocacy. Backers, however, say the branch is reflective of local wishes and that the national office is engaging in “voter suppression” by trying to dictate who leads the chapter.
• The state is investigating Newtown-based Evans Landscaping over allegations it has been abusing grants and other programs designed for minority-owned businesses. The company is also entangled in lawsuits around those allegations, which were filed by another company called Ergon Site Construction. An initial suit by Evans claims that Ergon owed the company $275,000 for work done on a contract. Ergon counter-sued, saying Evans was using the minority-owned Ergon to get minority contracts through the state and that the company kept state money meant for Ergon. In the midst of that fight, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Evans’ Newtown location Tuesday. Law enforcement officials would not comment on the reasons for the raid or whether it is related to fraud charges against Evans.
• So that was all super-heavy news. Here’s something less so. For $35 bucks, you can ride a zip line over The Banks. The zip line will go from an 80-foot platform in front of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to a shorter platform near the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. It will be open starting Saturday at 11 a.m. and will go until 5 p.m. that day. The line will run Sunday and Monday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon and then again from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Who’s going to do this with me? It sounds awesome.
• There is a lot of worry in Cincinnati surrounding the recent wave of shootings, which have spiked significantly over last year’s low numbers. But Cincinnati isn’t the only city experiencing increases in violence, and as its homicide numbers remain steady, other cities are seeing sharp increases. Among them is Milwaukee, which has seen 80 murders so far this year — double the 39 it had this time last year. In Baltimore, which has also seen a big spike in gun violence and deaths, the increase has led to the dismissal of the city’s police commissioner. Other cities, including St. Louis and New Orleans, are also experiencing big increases in murders. But social scientists are quick to point out that these spikes seem smaller in context to recent history. Even today’s increased numbers, which are only happening in certain cities, are still much lower than violent crime’s peak in the early 1990s. Experts have a variety of explanations for the mini-surge in violence in Cincinnati and elsewhere. Crime always picks up some in the summer, law enforcement officials note. Also, violent gun crime and murders have been so low in some cities like New York, which clocked its lowest murder rate in 50 years last year, that any increase looks big. Other experts point to the influence of drugs, weak gun laws or other explanations for the increasing violence.
• Finally, lawmakers in South Carolina voted last night to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state house there. The move comes in the wake of the shooting deaths of nine black church goes in Charleston at the hands of white supremacist Dylann Roof. Roof displayed the flag prominently on his vehicle and elsewhere.
That’s it for me. Tweet. Email. Etc.
American Girl dolls can
teach us a lot: what it might be like to be a girl growing up during the
American Revolution, Civil War or World War II; how to care for a special
collectable; the things white people will blow hundreds of dollars on. But now
they’re teaching us how to kick ass.
Fast-food kids meal toys
are serious business. From the controversy of pandering junk food and crap
prizes to kids and the idea of “boy” and “girl” toys to the chaos of
collectible items (remember the mini McBeanie Babies?), that inedible
side dish served alongside nuggets is kind of a big deal. I even remember
flipping out in a drive-through line over a Catwoman toy at a weak moment in my
8-year-old life. So it only made sense that a (fake) story about a McDonald’s
employee dropping his mix tapes into Happy Meals went viral recently. Few took
the time to notice the original source was Huzlers, a parody site.
What is true is that the mugshot of a Micky D’s employee they used was real —
only he was selling drugs, which is arguably not as funny.
Lots of rumors have surrounded the upcoming season of HBO’s The Leftovers — few actors would be returning, there’d be a totally new setting, etc. Well fans of the show, which debuted last summer, can calm the hell down now because nearly all the characters will be back and the new setting looks fascinating.
This is how a graffiti artist and city cleanup play a yearlong game of tag.
Here’s a map of the most popular fictional character from every U.S. state. Ohio’s is kind of a bummer — Freddy Krueger. I didn’t even realize A Nightmare on Elm Street was set in Ohio (in the go-to fictional town of Springfield), let alone that director Wes Craven was from Cleveland. Kentucky’s character is a bit more contemporary and less creepy: Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead.
Stephen Colbert stepped in to host Only in Monroe, a Michigan public access show. Colbert reported on various Monroe happenings and history tidbits, interviewed the regular hosts of the program and welcomed Michigan native Marshall Mathers to the show.
An architecture firm in Australia announced its plans for a Beyoncé-inspired skyscraper in Melbourne. They design is apparently based on the artsy fabric dancing in her “Ghost” video. Looks like The Beygency has new headquarters!
7 Days in Hell premieres
this Saturday — read more in this week's TV column.
Nick and Drew Lachey’s
A&E reality show premieres next Wednesday. We all know Lachey’s Bar in OTR
and now we can watch it on TV. Let’s not forget the last time A&E cameras
were in town, though — with Rowhouse Showdown, shit got weird.
Hey all, here’s the news today.
Two Cincinnati police officers face charges of covering up a car wreck involving fellow officer Sgt. Andrew Mitchell. Mitchell crashed his car March 22 on West McMicken Ave. According to dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice charges filed in Hamilton County Municipal Court, officers Jason Cotterman and Richard Sulfsted acted to remove Mitchell from the scene and hide his involvement from investigators after that accident. Mitchell now faces criminal charges, including reckless operation of a motor vehicle.
• It’s too early to tell if an attack that took place on Fountain Square July 4 was racially motivated, police said during a news conference yesterday. The incident took place during a period of unrest in which a crowd at a post-fireworks concert allegedly threw bottles and fireworks at officers, resulting in increased police presence including officers in riot gear. Just after that confrontation nearby, a man was beaten by a group of teens and young adults. Originally, responding officer Alicia Essert indicated the assault on Christopher McKnight, a white man from Albany, Indiana, was a hate crime. McKnight suffered a broken nose, facial lacerations and other minor injuries after an altercation with a group of teens and young adults. Essert reported the incident as “anti-white” because the teens were black, Cincinnati Police Capt. Mike Neville told reporters yesterday. He says that’s an incorrect assertion, and that officials are working to investigate what happened before calling the incident a hate crime.
• Let’s talk a little bit more about Transdev, the company tapped to run the Cincinnati streetcar. The private French transit operator has its U.S. offices in Chicago and employs about 18,000 people here. It runs four other rail projects around the country. Transdev only runs one other streetcar project, however — the nation’s largest in New Orleans. The company has overseen ridership increases on that transit project and even an expansion of its route, something streetcar boosters looking to take the trolley uptown will find encouraging. Here in Cincinnati, Transdev will be on the hook for any cost overruns the $4 million a year project incurs, since the contract currently being negotiated between the company and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is a fixed-cost deal.
* Cincinnati is the best city in the country for recreation, according to personal finance website Wallethub. Researchers there took into account climate, recreational costs, quality of parks and the number of recreational facilities in 100 cities to arrive at its rankings. Cincy ranked high in most categories, though it took a big hit in climate — we're 58. Big shocker there. But otherwise, we shine when it comes to our parks and other recreational opportunities. Cincy has the third-most music venues per capita, for instance, and ranked number one in overall number of entertainment and recreational opportunities. Pretty cool.
• The three potential marijuana farms in Southwestern Ohio proposed by weed-legalization effort RepsonsibleOhio would be staffed by union workers, owners of those farms said yesterday. Former Cincinnati Bengal and current Arizona Cardinal Frostee Rucker, one of those owners, promised that the farms would protect workers’ rights at a news conference yesterday. Rucker and other owners signed an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers union at that event. Owners of three potential marijuana farms in central Ohio have signed a similar agreement. The group, which is looking to put a state constitutional amendment on the November ballot, is proposing legalizing marijuana for anyone 21 and up, and making vending licenses available similar to liquor licenses. However, commercial growth of marijuana would be limited to 10 farms across the state owned by investors in the initiative. That’s caused cries of monopoly from a diverse array of critics spanning conservative state lawmakers and officials to other legalization groups.
• Attorneys for six Baltimore police officers charged in the police custody death of Freddy Gray are asking courts to move their trials, arguing that it’s impossible for the officers to get a fair trial in Baltimore. Gray died after sustaining severe spinal cord injuries in the back of a police van in April. After his death, large-scale civil unrest broke out in Baltimore and protests sprung up around the country. Because of the continued tension in the city, attorneys for the officers say it isn’t possible to assemble an unbiased jury pool in time for their October trials. Officers face various charges of murder, manslaughter and other lesser crimes.