The arts and e-media school — College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati — offers an embarrassment of riches (the most performances in the state, I’m told) and much of it is free. The season starts Aug. 29. See the whole digital calendar here. (My list is just the tip of the iceberg.) For ticketed events, call the CCM Box Office at 513-556-4183.
Here are 10 picks that you won’t regret.
1) The Ariel Quartet: It’s always a treat to witness the Ariels, CCM’s String Quartet-in-Residence, in action. The superb quartet opens its four-concert series on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 8 p.m., Corbett Auditorium. This time, faculty artist Soyeon Kate Lee joins the quartet in Schumann’s wonderful Piano Quintet in E-flat Major. There’s also BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 1 in F Major, Op. 18, No. 1, and JÖRG WIDMANN: String Quartet No. 3 (“Hunting”). The Ariels continue their series Oct. 25 with a program highlighted by Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, known as the “American Quartet.” Tickets: $25 general, $15 non-UC students, UC students FREE.
2) Polish Festival: CCM has been presenting themed festivals for the last few years. This year, it’s an exploration of music by Polish composers. The series opens Sept. 9, with the CCM Philharmonia under the baton of Mark Gibson. Soyeon Kate Lee is soloist in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Also: LUTOSŁAWSKI: Concerto for Orchestra. Tickets: $15 general, $10 non-UC students, UC students FREE. 8 p.m. Corbett Auditorium.
The Polish Festival continues all month. Highlights include the extraordinary and rarely-heard Gorecki Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sad Songs) with the CCM Concert Orchestra, led by Aik Khai Pung, and featuring the winner of the CCM Voice Competition (8 p.m. Sept. 17, Corbett Auditorium). There’s also a CCM Jazz Orchestra program with Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and composer Włodek Pawlik (7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, Corbett). The closing concert includes Penderecki’s searing Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (4 p.m. Oct. 2, Corbett).
3) Opera Fusion: New Works. You can witness the birth of an opera — or this fall, two. This is a truly groundbreaking project between the CCM Opera Department and Cincinnati Opera, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. First up is SOME LIGHT EMERGES, by Laura Kaminsky to a libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed. CCM’s opera chair Robin Guarino directs and Bradley Moore is conductor. The cast includes the stars of tomorrow from CCM’s opera department. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22. Location: Cincinnati Club−Oak Room, 30 Garfield Place, Downtown. Admission is free. Reservations are required. Tickets become available on Monday, Sept. 12. Contact the Cincinnati Opera box office for tickets at 513-241-2742 or http://www.cincinnatiopera.org.
The second is INTIMATE APPAREL, composed by Ricky Ian Gordon to a libretto by Lynn Nottage. Robin Guarino directs; Paul Cremo is Dramaturg and Timothy Meyers, conductor. This new work will be unveiled at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14. CCM Opera and Cincinnati Opera are in partnership with the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater’s New Works Program. Adapted by Lynn Nottage from her prize-winning 2003 play of the same name, Intimate Apparel tells the story of Esther, a 35-year-old seamstress in 1905 New York City. Esther sews lingerie for a living, interacting with a wealthy Fifth Avenue wife, a Tenderloin prostitute and a Jewish fabric merchant on the Lower East Side. … Location: Cincinnati Club−Oak Room, 30 Garfield Place, Downtown. Admission is free. Reservations are required. Tickets become available on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Please contact the Cincinnati Opera box office for tickets at 513-241-2742 or http://www.cincinnatiopera.org.
3) Romeo and Juliet: Where better to see the Bard’s timeless tragedy than at CCM, with a cast of fresh, young actors? Brant Russell directs Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in what is being described as a “subversive retelling of the iconic story.” Sept. 28 to Oct 2 in Patricia Corbett Theater. Times vary. Tickets: $27–31 adults, $17–20 non-UC students, $15–18 UC students.
4) CCM Percussion Group: The legendary ensemble (for whom many avant-garde composers have composed works, including John Cage) performs music from the ’30s to the present. They play with breathtaking precision, and you will be amazed by the soundscapes they produce. 8 p.m. Nov. 1, Patricia Corbett — it’s free.
5) Oscar Ghiglia: Another legend, the distinguished guitar virtuoso Ghiglia, celebrates his 42nd anniversary of residencies at CCM with a guitar recital of favorites. Prepare to be wowed. 4 p.m. Oct. 9, Werner Recital Hall. It’s free.
6) A Chorus Line, Oct. 20-30: A nine-time Tony Award-winner, and one of the longest running productions in Broadway history, A Chorus Line tells a strikingly honest tale about the backstage world of musical theater as 17 dancers vie to make the final cut for the latest smash hit. Need I say more? Diane Lala, director and choreographer; Roger Grodsky, musical director. Conceived and originally directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett; Book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante; Music by Marvin Hamlisch; Lyrics by Edward Kleban. Times vary. Patricia Corbett Theater. Tickets: $31–35 adults, $22–25 non-UC students, $18–21 UC students.
7) THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE BAND, Colonel Larry H. Lang, commander and conductor. The United States Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants are two of the six performing ensembles within the United States Air Force Band, the premier musical organization of the U.S. Air Force, and will perform at CCM as part of their 10-day tour, 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21. Corbett Auditorium. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Tickets are available online at https://bit.ly/USAFBandTour or in person at UC’s Veterans Programs and Services Office. Call 513-556-6811 for more information.
8) A Ricky Ian Gordon Cabaret: Composer Ricky Ian Gordon—one of America’s most respected composers of art song, opera and musical theater—joins CCM’s Opera and Voice singers and pianists for an evening of his music. Come watch the “stars-of-tomorrow” work with a living legend! 8 p.m. Nov. 4-5, 2 p.m Nov. 6, Cohen Family Studio Theater. Admission is free. Reservations are required. Tickets become available at noon on Monday, Oct. 31. Please visit the CCM Box Office or call 513-556-4183 to reserve. Limit two tickets per order.
9) RACHMANINOFF ALL-NIGHT VIGIL. Earl Rivers leads the CCM Chamber Choir in this extraordinary masterpiece, called the greatest a cappella masterwork of the early 20th century. The All-Night-Vigil (Vespers) is a series of 15 liturgical/concert settings from the Russian Orthodox tradition in 65 minutes that achieves great heights of expressive power and intensity through “choral orchestration” by continually varying the textures and sonorities. 3 p.m., Nov. 6, Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, 1140 Madison Ave., Covington, KY. It’s FREE.
10) Cinderella: You won’t want to miss Jules Massenet’s opera “Cendrillon,” composed to one of the world’s most beloved fairy tales. Sung in French, the opera comes to the CCM’s Corbett Auditorium in a new modernist production (is the Prince riding a motorcycle?) directed by Robin Guarino and conducted by Mark Gibson. 8 p.m. Nov. 17 and Nov. 19; 2 p.m. Nov. 20. Tickets: $31–35 adults, $22–25 non-UC students, $18–21 UC students.