Cincinnati Song Initiative wins ‘Stand for the Arts’ award

Cincinnati Song Initiative participants around the piano (L-R): Alex Hurd, Ahyoung Jung, Samuel Martin, Ivy Walz, Kenneth Griffiths, Marie Marquis

America’s only arts network, Ovation TV, in partnership with Spectrum, has awarded Cincinnati Song Initiative a 2018 Stand for the Arts award. The award includes $10,000 in funding. Officials will hold a formal award presentation in Cincinnati on Oct. 8.

Cincinnati Song Initiative is a three-year-old concert series devoted to art song. The project, led by founding artistic director Samuel Martin, presents beautifully-sung, well-researched programs on themes such as American song, the French group, Les Six, and the art song of Spanish-speaking nations, “Alma de España,” which kicks off the third season on Sept. 22.Read More »

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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 »

The Flying Dutchman leaves port

‘Iolanta’ charms at Queen City Opera

Iolanta and her aides in Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta” at Queen City Opera. Provided photos

“I long for something, but I don’t know what,” sang the lovely blind princess Iolanta, in Queen City Opera’s production of Tchaikovsky’s final opera, “Iolanta.”

Tchaikovsky’s rarely-seen one-act opera is being rediscovered, with the Met recently presenting its first production starring Anna Netrebko. Last month, inspired by the Met’s production, Isaac Selya mounted a charming, beautifully sung production in Cincinnati.

The fairytale opera is about a blind princess whose father, the king of Provence, King René, doesn’t allow her to know anything about light or vision, thus keeping her in the dark about her condition. (To create awareness, Selya collaborated with Cincinnati’s Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.)

It was a gem of an opera, with a magical orchestral score, rewarding singing by a young cast and a simple but effective set design in Dunham Arts Center, a former tuberculosis hospital on Cincinnati’s West Side.Read More »

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.

UC names new dean for CCM, and he’s a CCM grad

Kristi A. Nelson, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Cincinnati, today announced the appointment of Stanley E. Romanstein, PhD, as Dean of the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).

Romanstein’s appointment becomes effective July 1, 2018, pending approval of the University’s Board of Trustees.

The CCM graduate returns to CCM from Georgia State University’s Creative Media Institute, where he has served as a professor of practice/music and the arts for the past four years. He was President and CEO of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (2010-14), among other posts.

Romanstein earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Carson-Newman College in 1976. He then came to CCM to earn a Master of Music in Choral Conducting in 1980 and a PhD in Music in 1990. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Israel in 1985-86 and in Japan in November-December 1998.

Read more about the new dean in the press release here.