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 »

Music Hall arts groups, FC Cincinnati pledge “good faith” agreement

A recent acoustical study determined that crowd noise from the FC Cincinnati stadium will infiltrate Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium, where concerts by the CSO, Opera, Ballet and others are held.

For the past week, there have been minute-by-minute reports on how the new $250 million stadium for FC Cincinnati will impact Music Hall, its tenants, and Cincinnati Ballet, which has its headquarters at Liberty and Central Parkway.

I’m publishing the statement from arts groups that arrived in my inbox today. For more, Chris Wetterich at the Business Courier is covering all the news at bizjournals.com/cincinnati. To read the latest news about City Council postponing its vote on FC Cincinnati’s development plan, click here.

JOINT STATEMENT FROM CINCINNATI ARTS ASSOCIATION, MUSIC HALL RESIDENT PERFORMING ARTS ORGANIZATIONS, and MUSIC HALL REVITALIZATION COMPANY

This morning the Arts Organizations entered into an agreement of cooperation and support with FC Cincinnati regarding specifically the relationship between the new stadium and Music Hall. The Parties in regard to Music Hall and Stadium Operations have agreed to work together as good neighbors and in good faith on concerns related to noise, parking, traffic, and scheduling. Our collective goal is to minimize the number of occasions where performances at Music Hall occur at the same time as FC Cincinnati home games, and to minimize the impact of the stadium’s noise on Music Hall on the occasions when there are simultaneous events.

Specifically, this will include minimizing the stadium’s noise impact on Music Hall through stadium design and other sound mitigation measures at Music Hall. Regarding parking, if FC Cincinnati manages the Town Center Garage on game days starting in March of 2021 per an agreement with the City of Cincinnati, the team has committed to making a substantial amount of parking in that garage available to audience members attending performances at Music Hall when games overlap with performances. To be clear, this agreement does not speak to the ongoing negotiations between Cincinnati Ballet and FCC regarding the Ballet Center.

A rendering of the stadium site on the West End near Central Parkway/courtesy Business Courier

Who are the next leaders in the arts?

One of the most interesting stories I have had the privilege to write for the Business Courier was about 10 up-and-coming young arts patrons who will be guiding our great Cincinnati arts institutions in the decades to come. For as long as I’ve covered the arts here, there has been hand-wringing over who will replace those great philanthropists and board leaders who have gone before. The Nipperts and Corbetts are just two of most well-known names from the previous generation, among many others.

Cincinnati has a great history of generosity and stewardship that goes back more than a century. You only need to consider this:

The CSO turns 125 in 2020

Cincinnati Opera turns 100 in 2020

Art Academy of Cincinnati turns 150 in 2019

UC’s College-Conservatory of Music is celebrating its 150th this year.

That kind of legacy takes leadership and creativity. And it takes changing with the times. Who could have imagined that an arts event called Blink could bring a million people downtown last year?

These young leaders already hold some of the city’s most important board roles. I think the arts are and will be in very good hands.

So who are the 10? Read the story here.

Where to find arts news and reviews: Visit the new Arts Front at bizjournals.com/cincinnati. It’s free, but you may need to register for a free subscription. For the latest CSO review of Beethoven’s Ninth, click here.

May Festival’s first season with Mena emphasized community

Links to my festival reviews for Cincinnati Business Courier are below:

John Holiday stepped in to sing wonderfully in Chichester Psalms when David Daniels could not apear on Friday. Photos are provided by the Cincinnati May Festival

The 2018 May Festival ended on Saturday night with a terrific performance of Handel’s Messiah, in which 170 community singers joined the May Festival Chorus.

Juanjo Mena led a stylish performance with a reduced Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and a smaller chorus (about 65 singers) surrounding the orchestra on risers. Stationed up high in Music Hall’s gallery were guest choruses, who participated in excerpts of the oratorio. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised from my seat — also in the gallery — that their ensemble was clean and they sang exceedingly well, as did the May Festival Chorus.

The May Festival Chorus on risers, with Juanjo Mena and soloists walking offstage

The soloists were superb — including soprano Robin Johannsen, tenor Barry Banks and baritone José Antonio López. What a thrill it was to hear countertenor David Daniels — who had canceled due to illness on Friday — appear on Saturday to sing brilliantly in airs such as “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion.” I especially enjoyed his wonderful embellishments to his vocal lines.

Highly-trained community choruses flanked the stage, seated in the gallery.

Mena propelled tempos briskly, and kept the vocal and instrumental articulation crisp. It was an uplifting conclusion to his first year as principal conductor.

May Festival articles

The tradition of little flowers girls/boys is still alive at the May Festival

I have reviewed three May Festival concerts for the Cincinnati Business Courier, thanks to support from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism.

REVIEW: Eun Sun Kim makes stunning debut in Verdi’s Requiem at May Festival

REVIEW: Bernstein’s ‘Mass’ an over-the-top ‘happening’ at May Festival

REVIEW: Juanjo Mena makes joyous debut as new May Festival leader

Leonard Bernstein’s Mass in Music Hall for the first time since 1972

And thanks to grants from ArtsWave and the Haile Foundation, you may view the Courier’s arts page for FREE. Click here for much more arts coverage, including other May Festival stories.

James Conlon receives Italian honor

James Conlon. Photo provided

The President of the Italian Republic has awarded May Festival music director laureate James Conlon with the Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Commendatore Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana).

The title of Commendatore is granted to acknowledge “merits achieved for the nation in the fields of literature, arts, economics, and in the fulfillment of public duties.” It is one of Italy’s highest honors.

“Being descended, in part, from Italian immigrants, this recognition of my work is particularly meaningful to me,” said the New York-born maestro.

Two other American-born conductors — both with Cincinnati ties — have been similarly honored: Leonard Bernstein (1989) and Thomas Schippers (1975). Bernstein was honorary music director of the Cincinnati May Festival; Thomas Schippers was music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Conlon, who is currently principal conductor of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra in Torino —the first American to hold this position—has performed regularly in Italy for over 30 years. He is recognized internationally for his work in both the concert hall and opera house, and has also served as music director of Los Angeles Opera since 2006.

The May Festival is here

Eun Sun Kim with soloists for Verdi’s Requiem in Music Hall

The May Festival opened last night with a stunning performance of Verdi’s Requiem conducted by Eun Sun Kim — the first woman to lead the Cincinnati May Festival. Watch for a review later today at bizjournals.com/cincinnati/topic/arts.

And below are links to other preview stories that I’ve been writing for The Business Courier, part of their new initiative to provide arts coverage for our region:

Volunteer talent shines at 145-year-old Cincinnati May Festival: Click here to read

May Festival conductor Kim among new wave of women on the podium: Click here

May Festival to perform Bernstein Mass for first time in 46 years: Click here

The tradition of little flowers girls/boys is still alive at the May Festival