Impressive musical lineup to benefit Literacy Council

Lit_Council1 image 2019Next Sunday, June 23, an impressive lineup of local classical musicians will come together for a concert to benefit the Literacy Council of Clermont & Brown Counties. Reach for the Stars will take place at 4 p.m. June 23 at Knox Presbyterian Church in Hyde Park.

Spearheaded by Suzanne Bona, host of the nationally broadcast public radio program “Sunday Baroque” and an accomplished musician, the concert aims to raise awareness and funds for adult literacy.

“With the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we thought it would be fun to feature music with astronomical themes such as Holst’s ‘Mars’ and Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata,” said Bona. “Plus, Reach for the Stars is what the clients of the Literacy Council do every day as they open up the world of possibilities reading can bring.”Read More »

Der Freischütz hits the mark in rare American performance by Queen City Opera

The hunters carried assault rifles in Queen City Opera’s “Der Freischütz.” Photo by Tina Gutierrez

It’s amazing that Carl Maria von Weber’s 1821 opera, “Der Freischütz,” is rarely performed in the United States. The early German romantic opera – which Queen City Opera loosely translated as “The Magic Bullets,” has a rich orchestral score, wonderful choruses and arias and a supernatural story. It’s easy to see how it paved the way to the German opera that was to come, especially that of Richard Wagner.

Isaac Selya, founder and artistic director of Queen City Opera and conductor for the production, told me in an interview for the Cincinnati Business Courier that the opera has only been performed once before in Ohio, by Cincinnati Opera in 1933. According to Operavore, the Met last performed this early romantic gem in 1972.

On Sunday, I joined many other opera lovers who were curious to see and hear Weber’s under-appreciated work, which was staged by Rebecca Herman. Read More »

Coming up: Paradise for piano lovers

Awadagin Pratt established Art of the Piano nine years ago at CCM

Awadagin Pratt’s 2019 Art of the Piano Festival will pair legendary soloists with young artists from around the globe starting this weekend, May 25 through June 15 at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

The ninth annual festival will feature 15 renowned artists in recitals and conducting public master classes with rising stars. Besides Pratt, a CCM faculty member, the festival includes the return of legendary pianist Leon Fleisher, as well as Christopher O’Riley, Alexander Korsantia, Boris Berman, Jura Margulis, Maria Murawska and Vladimir Feltsman.

There are also recitals by young artists. The festival will include pre-concert gatherings with food, wine, and talks with the artists and talk-backs with the artists at the close of their concerts.Read More »

May Festival in full swing

View of the stage on Opening Night at the May Festival

Here are last weekend’s reviews:

Friday night’s review of Mark Simpson’s “The Immortal” is published on the national website, Classical Voice North America, free to read by clicking here.

And Saturday’s review is published locally by the Cincinnati Business Courier. Remember that the Arts Front is always free, but you may need to register for a FREE subscription. Click here for the review, and click here to read the season preview.

Tonight, May 23: Craig Hella Johnson leads Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble in a performance of his own oratorio, “Considering Matthew Shepard.” The work provides “a space for reflection, consideration and unity around (Matthew Shepard’s) life and legacy,” Johnson says. Rod Caspers, stage director. 7 p.m., Corbett Auditorium, CCM. (Note the show is moved from PCT due to ticket demand.)

Herald trumpets hail the season

Friday, May 24: Music director laureate James Conlon returns to the Festival for the first time since 2016 to lead Mussorgsky’s Prologue and Farewell Scene from “Boris Godunov,” Boito’s Prologue from “Mefistofele” and Mahler’s “Das Klagende Lied,” with soloists Morris Robinson, Sarah Vautour, Taylor Raven, Richard Trey Smagur, John Siarris and Donnie Ray Albert. Conlon gives the preconcert lecture at 7 p.m. in Springer Auditorium.

NOTE THE EARLY START TIME, Saturday, May 25: Juanjo Mena leads J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” with soloists Berit Norbakken Solset, Carlos Mena, Werner Güra, James Newby, Andrew Stenson and Hanno Müller-Brachmann and the May Festival Youth Chorus.  7 p.m., Music Hall (Note the early start time).

And here’s the review of the second weekend.

Vocal pyrotechnics by Roomful of Teeth at May Festival

Roomful of Teeth played the Woodward Theater for the May Festival. Photo provided/Lee Snow

It’s hard to categorize Roomful of Teeth, a vocal octet that calls itself a “vocal project.” On Wednesday, the singers — Abigail Lennox and Martha Cluver, sopranos; Alexandra Colaizzi and Virginia Kelsey, altos; Eric Dudley, tenor (former assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra); Avery Griffin, baritone; Thann Scoggin, bass-baritone, and Cameron Beauchamp, bass — amazed a sold-out house with their vocal pyrotechnics at the Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine.

There were about 150 music lovers, with a space for standing room, for this sold-out “extra” concert, a first at the 146-year-old Cincinnati May Festival.

It’s safe to say that their style of singing is unusual, if not revolutionary. Their musical palette — some of which was showcased in their first number, Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices — included whispering, throat singing, bending of tones, yodeling and possibly some Bulgarian belting, one of their specialties. It was performed with amplification, but nothing, I’m told, was electronically manipulated — which made the feats they achieved even more stunning.Read More »