Opera is changing, and Cincinnati is at the forefront

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Eisenhower’s words are projected above the cast in a scene of “Another Brick in the Wall” that drew audience applause. Provided/Philip Groshong

This month at Cincinnati Opera, audiences are seeing an opera based on a Pink Floyd rock album and another, “As One,” on a transgender topic. The company is commissioning “Blind Injustice,” based on the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati, to premiere next year in CO’s 99th season.

Last week, the chamber group concert:nova presented a “rock opera” based on sci-fi stories from “The Illustrated Man” by Ray Bradbury. (Here’s a column I wrote about it.)

It’s no secret that opera can no longer lure audiences with just the traditional canon of the ABCs – “Aida,” “La Boheme” and “Carmen.” Around the country, opera companies are embracing diversity and programming new American opera on a range of topics.

For the last couple of decades, new opera has addressed timely social issues – such as Jake Heggie’s and Terrence McNally’s “Dead Man Walking,” based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean about the death penalty. As opera embraces the vernacular – with the aim of making it accessible to all — the whole art form is blurring the lines between traditional opera, pop and musical theater.

A case in point is “Another Brick in the Wall,” based on the acid-rock Pink Floyd Album, “The Wall.” To me, the production emphasized the visuals – the projections, the scenic design, the spectacle – leaving an impression not far removed from a night at the theater seeing “Les Miserables” or “Miss Saigon.” (Read my review here.)Read More »

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The Flying Dutchman leaves port

Summer season: Opera reviews and more

A scene from “La Traviata” to open Cincinnati Opera’s seasons. Photo provided/Philip Groshong

This is a reminder to readers that many of my reviews can be found at bizjournals.com/cincinnati/topic/arts — thanks to a new initiative to cover the arts by the Cincinnati Business Courier and a grant from the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

Click here to read my review of Cincinnati Opera’s “La Traviata.”

I’ve reviewed Olga Kern at Art of the Piano here.

Here’s the review of opening night of Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea.

Read more about countertenors here.

And today, the Ansel Adams photography exhibition opens at the Taft Museum. Read about it here.

In memoriam: Theater critic Jackie Demaline

Attending Cincinnati Opera’s The Barber of Seville with Jackie and Polly Campbell, right, in 2005. Photo courtesy of Jeff Swinger

This was my favorite photo of Jackie, taken at exactly this time of year — opera season — in 2005. You can see Jackie’s exuberance at being there. She did everything exuberantly. She approached her cancer and the final months of her life fearlessly. To echo many of those who knew what she went through, she was the bravest person I know.

Jackie died early this morning at age 68.

Here is my tribute for the Business Courier.

Music critic Mary Ellyn Hutton: ‘The community was enriched by her knowledge’

Mary Ellyn Hutton wrote music criticism for 23 years for the Cincinnati Post.

Mary Ellyn Hutton will be remembered as a journalist with unflagging dedication to Cincinnati’s musical arts. The longtime classical music critic for the Cincinnati Post continued to cover the classical scene for more than a decade after the demise of Cincinnati’s afternoon newspaper in 2007.

She died surrounded by her family on May 28 after a battle with lung cancer. The Hyde Park resident was 77.Read More »

Tenor Bryan Hymel to step in for Polenzani in Verdi Requiem

Tenor Bryan Hymel. Photo by Dario Acosta

The Cincinnati May Festival has announced that the celebrated tenor Matthew Polenzani is ill and unable to perform in Verdi’s Requiem to open the festival this Friday.

Bryan Hymel will replace Polenzani as tenor soloist on May 18. Hymel regularly appears with the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, and La Scala.

He has performed the roles of Don José in Carmen, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and as tenor soloist in the Verdi Requiem. He has been the recipient of the opera world’s most prestigious awards including the Olivier Award, the Metropolitan Opera’s Beverly Sills Artist Award, and the George Thill Prize, and has been the top prize winner in the Lissner, Albanese, Zachary, Gari and Metropolitan Opera National Council competitions.

Rising star Eun Sun Kim will conduct the opening night performance, replacing James Levine.

For information, visit mayfestival.com.

Brahms Concerto shines with Ehnes in CSO season finale

James Ehnes performed Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major with the CSO. Photo provided

Violinist James Ehnes’ inspired playing in the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra over the weekend can only be described as masterful. The golden sound that he achieved on his 1715 Stradivarius violin was stunning. In Saturday’s concert, it was equally fascinating to hear Ehnes reveal the Cincinnati connection behind his $8 million instrument.Read More »