Links to my festival reviews for Cincinnati Business Courier are below:
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 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.
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
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.
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 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:
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.
The Cincinnati May Festival announced today a two-year contract extension for Robert Porco, Director of Choruses, through the end of the 2020 May Festival.
Porco has served in that role since 1989, preparing the volunteer May Festival Chorus for hundreds of performances for the festival, as well as for concerts with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Pops.Read More »
By now you’ve read, or you’ve heard about, Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine’s fall from grace. Yesterday, the Metropolitan Opera fired the maestro, a Cincinnati native, citing “credible evidence” for sexual abuse allegations that go back decades.
Levine was one of the most powerful people in the opera world. He was revered as a conductor who rivaled legends such as Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. In Cincinnati, Levine’s talent is a part of local lore. He made his Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra debut as piano soloist at age 10 under Thor Johnson. As a pre-teen, he would sit for hours at Cincinnati Opera rehearsals at the zoo, inhaling opera scores and imitating Italian conductor Fausto Cleva.
He was music director of the Cincinnati May Festival in 1974, before he turned 30, and served for five seasons. (The May Festival has canceled his planned appearance this season.)
In Cincinnati, he conducted his first performances of Wagner operas Lohengrin, Tannhauser and Parsifal, in concert version for the May Festival. Levine hand-picked his successor, James Conlon.
He was a personal champion of opera soprano Kathleen Battle, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
And his mentor from an early age into adulthood was Walter Levin, the late first violinist of the LaSalle Quartet, the distinguished former quartet-in-residence at CCM.
One of Levine’s honorary doctorates was from the University of Cincinnati.
I’m reposting the Met’s entire statement here:Read More »
Korea-born conductor Eun Sun Kim will make her Cincinnati May Festival debut on May 18, replacing James Levine, who was previously announced to open the season. The Cincinnati May Festival made the announcement on Thursday.
She will be the first woman to lead the festival in its 145-year history. The program is unchanged. Kim will lead the May Festival Chorus and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem at Music Hall. Read More »