Mahler spellbinds in James Conlon’s return to CSO


James Conlon, May Festival music director laureate, returned to conduct Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 with the CSO. Photo provided/Lee Snow

James Conlon raised his arms to begin Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “Titan,” and the musicians of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra sounded the long, quiet ‘A’ that opens the work. From that pure tone, the woodwinds evoked the gradual awakenings of nature, trumpet fanfares sounded in the distance and every note had color and meaning.

It was a spellbinding start to the hour-long journey that is Mahler. Through it all, the warmth of Conlon’s interpretation was palpable.

Conlon’s masterful reading of Mahler’s First Symphony on Saturday was just the antidote for a cold, snowy weekend when a blustery winter storm bore down on the city. Some brave souls turned out on Friday despite the dire forecasts. On Saturday, with the storm past, Music Hall was filled to the rafters.Read More »


Weather alert: May Festival’s ‘Messiah’ community sing postponed

Cincinnati May Festival

The Cincinnati May Festival has announced that its community sing event, scheduled for Saturday Jan. 13 in Music Hall, has been postponed due to the weather. The event will now take place on Jan. 20.

Here are the details:

Have you always wanted to sing with the world-famous May Festival Chorus? The chorus is hosting a free Community Sing at Music Hall with conductor Robert Porco and the May Festival Chorus, now slated for Jan. 20, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the chorus rehearsal hall at Music Hall.

The May Festival seeks singers of all voice types to join an all-new May Festival Community Chorus, a volunteer ensemble that will perform with the May Festival Chorus and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in a complete performance of Handel’s Messiah on May 26, 2018. Read More »

James Conlon brings the heroic Mahler into focus

James Conlon, backstage at Music Hall, offered insights into Mahler’s Symphony No. 1

James Conlon was back in Cincinnati, and he was beaming. Before sitting down to offer his thoughts on Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “The Titan,” which he will conduct this weekend with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, he offered a whirlwind tour of the new, somewhat spare dressing rooms in the old Green Room area backstage at Music Hall.

“It’s wonderful to see my old friends. It’s wonderful to see the orchestra,” he said, clearly touched to be back in the hall where he worked for so long. Music Hall closed for a 16-month renovation after his final concert as May Festival Music director in 2016.Read More »

Music Hall parking 101

It’s better to plan ahead for parking if you are going to Music Hall.

If you’ve gone to the Cincinnati Symphony, Pops or Cincinnati Ballet at Music Hall this fall, you’ve likely discovered that parking isn’t what it used to be. Here’s how to BE PREPARED for the new changes since Music Hall reopened after its 16-month renovation:

Parking for the CSO: In order to park in Washington Park Garage for the CSO, you need to purchase a $15 ticket ahead of time in order to get in. And sometimes those tickets are sold out. (That garage only holds 450 spaces, and some – but not all — of those are reserved on CSO concert nights.)Read More »

Clip and save: What to see this winter

The incomparable Jamie Barton performs Jan. 26 at Memorial Hall

Baby it’s cold outside – but Winter is the season when the arts heat up. In the coming weeks, there are many tempting concerts and events to warm you up. So, bundle up, because there are a few that you won’t want to miss.

Jan. 11-12: Canticle. The Vocal Arts Ensemble reprises Kile Smith’s gorgeous “Canticle,” a setting of the biblical Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs), 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11 and 12 in Memorial Hall. Tickets start at $25. 513-381-3300,

Jan. 12-13: Conlon returns. James Conlon, music director laureate of the Cincinnati May Festival, returns to conduct the CSO in Schubert’s Rosamunde Overture and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Violinist Jennifer Frautschi is soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300,

James Conlon at the 2016 May Festival
Photo provided

Jan. 19: Star soloist at Moveable Feast. CCM’s biggest fundraiser, this year on Friday, Jan. 19, will feature a performance by alumnus and star trumpeter Brian Newman, who will solo with the CCM Jazz Orchestra as the “opening course” in the CCM Village.  Read More »

Year in review: Classical music made news in 2017

The orchestra is now seated on risers, shown here on the “thrust” stage.

The year 2017 was a year of big change for Cincinnati’s arts organizations. The most significant story – one that garnered a large piece in the New York Times — was about Music Hall, home to the city’s major performing arts groups, which finished up a massive, ambitious renovation costing at least $143 million.

Music Hall reopened with fanfare on Oct. 6 and 7. The weekend included a community open house that drew thousands. Opening night revelers basked in the elegant new decor and patron-friendly amenities, which include cup holders for the first time on wider seats, more bars and more restrooms.

Reuben Springer now presides over a new bar at Music Hall.

There are now more than 1,000 fewer seats and Springer Auditorium is physically smaller. The musicians sit on risers on a new “thrust” stage, 12 feet closer to the audience than before. All of that – including new materials such as concrete floors – means that the acousticians are still in the “tuning” phase of what is really a new hall-within-a-hall.

Memorial Hall’s renovation beautifully preserved the historic theater (built by Hannaford & Sons) and also enhanced the acoustics. Shown here with the Vocal Arts Ensemble. Photo by Michael T. Moore, Jr.

The renovation was just one sign of the importance of Cincinnati’s growing arts district surrounding Washington Park. Read More »

Levine’s May Festival appearance canceled amid sex abuse allegations

James Levine. Photo courtesy of the Met Orchestra.

The Cincinnati May Festival has canceled the appearance of James Levine this May following allegations over the weekend of sexual misconduct that began in the 1960s.

The festival announced on Monday that the performance of Verdi’s Requiem will take place as scheduled on May 18, 2018. A replacement conductor will be announced at a future date.

The festival’s decision followed news that the Metropolitan Opera has suspended Levine after reports surfaced that he had allegedly molested at least three young men for years, according to the New York Times.

Levine, now 74 and suffering from Parkinson’s disease, is a native of Cincinnati, where he began his musical training and was a graduate of Walnut Hills High School. He was scheduled to open the festival on May 18 with Verdi’s Requiem, a work that he conducted in New York on Saturday, which was broadcast live over public radio from the Met.

Levine was May Festival music director from 1973 to 1978. His last appearance at the festival was in 2005. His appearance was to have celebrated the return of the May Festival to Music Hall after its $143 million renovation.

The New York Post broke the news on Dec. 2 about a 2016 Illinois police report detailing the allegations of sexual abuse of a then-teenage musician in 1986, while Levine was music director at the Ravinia Festival outside of Chicago. Peter Gelb, general director of the Met, told the New York Times that, at the time, Levine had denied the accusation and the Lake Forest Police Department did not follow up.

However, in graphic accounts reported by Michael Cooper in the Times online edition on Sunday, two more men have come forward to allege sexual misconduct with Levine when they were teenagers.

Levine is one of the most celebrated conductors in America. Salacious rumors have swirled around his private life for decades, but he has consistently denied any wrongdoing.  According the Times, Gelb said that the Met had investigated allegations twice previously during Levine’s 40-year tenure at America’s most important opera house.

Levine has been a beloved figure at the Met, where he has conducted more than 2,500 performances. Now confined to a motorized wheelchair after widely-publicized health problems, he stepped down to become music director emeritus last year.

The Met has canceled his upcoming conducting engagements.