Cincinnati Ballet expects to shatter attendance records in ‘Nutcracker’

Cincinnati Ballet photos provided

Cincinnati Ballet predicts it will shatter attendance records for its annual production of “The Nutcracker,” Dec. 15-24 in Music Hall. The company projects more than 25,000 patrons will see the holiday favorite over the course of the production run. Several performances are nearly sold out, the company said in a release today.

There is lots to enjoy in the sumptuous production staged in 2011 by former Artistic Director Victoria Morgan, featuring dancing cupcakes, a battle of mice and a poodle ensemble dancing the “Dance of the Mirlitons.” Fiona the Hippo continues to appear in the production. This year, audiences should play close attention to the second act for a special nod to her new baby brother, Fritz. 

In the charming tale, Clara embarks on a dreamy journey to the Land of Sweets after receiving a nutcracker as a gift on Christmas Eve. The large cast includes dozens of local performers alongside Cincinnati Ballet’s superb professional company.

Part of the joy of this production is hearing the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the pit, performing Tchaikovsky’s score conducted by the legendary Carmon DeLeone. Times vary. Tickets: 513-621-5282;

For more holiday favorites coming next month, visit my 10 picks on the Business Courier’s Arts Front.

Artist change at CSO this weekend

Conrad Tao appeared last year over Thanksgiving weekend with Roderick Cox conducting. Photo provided by CSO.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is performing this Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s always fun to take those  out-of-town guests to Music Hall. The program features Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.”

The CSO issued a statement on Monday that pianist Khatia Buniatishvili has been forced to withdraw from this weekend’s performances.

The pianist Conrad Tao will step in for performances on November 26 & 27.  Ironically, he appeared exactly a year ago on Thanksgiving weekend.

Elim Chan, a graduate of the University of Michigan, is guest conductor.

Tickets: 513-381-3300,

CSO’s principal trumpet Robert Sullivan accepts new post

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s principal trumpet Robert Sullivan has accepted a position as professor of trumpet in the winds and percussion instruments department of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance beginning in August.

The CSO says that Sullivan will still remain CSO Principal Trumpet through the 2022-23 season and retire from the CSO in May.

It’s a natural choice for Sullivan, who is a graduate of UM. “It is humbling to be chosen to take over the trumpet studio where I began to learn and hone my craft so many years ago with Armando Ghitalla’s tutelage and mentorship,” he said in a statement on the website.

Sullivan has twice served as principal trumpet with the CSO; he joined in 2008, departed to teach, and returned in 2017. He has been featured as soloist five times, including a new work by Peter Boyer with a stirring trumpet solo, “In the Cause of the Free,” which is on the Cincinnati Pops’ “American Originals 1918” album. On most nights, he dazzles in his trumpet solos in the section.

Previously, Sullivan was associate principal trumpet with the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra, and second trumpet with the Charleston Symphony. He has also been a member of the US Air Force Band and a faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Mannes College of Music.

He also served for five years as professor of trumpet at Northwestern University, during which time he was a regular performer with the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera Orchestra of Chicago.

The orchestra will begin a search for his successor this season.

Cincinnati-born pianist Nicholas Angelich dead at 51

Nicholas Angelich, photo by Marc Ribes, Warner Classics

Pianist Nicholas Angelich, one of the world’s finest interpreters of Brahms, died early today in Paris of a rare lung disease, I’ve just learned. Angelich, 51, has lived in Paris for many years, having first gone there at age 13 to study at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique.

Angelich was born in Cincinnati, and began studying piano at age 5 with his mother, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto K. 467 in concert at age 7. His father, violinist Borivoje Angelich, was a long-time member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

I’ll never forget his 2009 performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, which he performed with the CSO led by then-music director Paavo Järvi. Nicholas’ father was playing in the violin section, which must have been a moving experience for father and son.

Here’s a bit from my review of that concert: It was a treat to hear him play Brahms’ D Minor Concerto, one of the most emotional masterpieces this composer ever wrote. It weighs drama and turmoil against enormous lyrical beauty, and pianists may be tempted to tackle it with too much bombast.

Yet Angelich’s view was heartfelt and genuine. He communicated a profound understanding for Brahms’ noble themes, playing with depth, warmth and a sonorous tonal palette. His technique was effortless, and he summoned plenty of power in the peaks.
The beauty of his touch was something to behold in the slow movement, and each phrase was deeply felt. The finale was adrenalin-charged, yet he communicated its romantic mood with great sweeps of color and lyricism.

Nicholas built his career mainly in Europe, and released a number of excellent recordings. His award-winning discography includes the Brahms Piano Concertos with Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra as well as the majority of Brahms’ piano music and chamber music; Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Gil Shaham and Anne Gastinel; and solo recordings of works by Bach, Liszt, Beethoven, Schumann, Rachmaninoff and many others.

One of my favorites is his recording of the Brahms piano trios with Renaud Capuçon and Gautier Capuçon for Erato Records.

We should learn more in the coming days, but this is a great loss to the piano world. The news comes on the same day that we also learn the great Romanian pianist Radu Lupu has passed away, and just after our friend to the Linton Series, Joseph Kalichstein, has died. Rest in Peace.



What a year! Looking back and ahead in the arts

View of the CSO performing a livestreamed concert in Nov. 2020

I’ll never forget the fear in the eyes of both performers and audience members in the first few live, indoor performances I saw in the early months of the pandemic in 2020. We were masked, spaced vastly apart and there was no intermission to avoid viral spread. Otherwise, many performances were livestreamed online, with musicians masked and separated by space and screens.

Then in 2021, as vaccines became available and theaters began to reopen to full audiences, there was elation and relief by many who were able to finally attend a show in person.

Every concert, play, ballet or art exhibition I attended in 2021 was deeply moving because it showed the perseverance of artists — indeed of all humanity — during this unprecedented time. I feel that we’ve come a long way.

Now, we are buffeted again by the Omicron variant. Just announced, there are at least two museum “pauses” (Cincinnati Art Museum is closed Jan. 3-12 and the Taft Museum of Art is closed Jan. 3-13).

“Hairspray” is postponed to a later date due to Covid in the cast.

There are also a few postponed performances. At the Aronoff Center, “Hairspray” scheduled to play January 4 – 9, 2022 is being rescheduled due to breakthrough positive Covid cases within the company of “Hairspray.” Ticket holders are encouraged to hold onto their tickets while the engagement is being rescheduled.

At Music Hall, the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati is postponing its January 8 and 9 performances of “The Song Among Us” to a later date, to be announced. The release states that the postponement “is prompted by production challenges exacerbated by the recent rise in positive Covid cases across the nation.” Ticket holders may complete this form or call the box office at 513-381-3300 for ticket options, including donations, exchanges, and refunds.

I prefer to see the glass half full.  I believe we will get through this, and the arts will persevere.

Singers Michelle DeYoung and Sean Panikkar share bows in Mahler’s “The Song of the Earth” with the CSO. (Photo by Lee Snow)

I wrote a list of some of my favorite performances in 2021 in a column for the Business Courier. My list begins with Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in Music Hall last March, and ends with “The Marriage of Figaro” at CCM in November. I’d like to know some of yours, too. (Let me know here, or on Facebook.)

And looking ahead, here is my list of “best bets” in 2022. It’s really just a broad sweep — because there are so many chamber music, vocal concerts, art exhibitions and dance performances that have yet to be announced. I think we have a lot to anticipate.

Verdi’s opulent “Aida” will be presented at Cincinnati Opera in summer 2022. Photo courtesy of Opéra de Montréal, Yves Renaud

Daniil Trifonov recital postponed

Daniil Trifonov

The CSO sent out this message today to ticket holders regarding Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov’s recital scheduled for Nov. 10:

Daniil is recovering from a recent elbow injury that will prevent him from performing this Wednesday. The recital has been rescheduled to MAR 1, 2022 at 7:30 pm.

Daniil expressed his regret, stating: “I have been advised to postpone the performance to avoid exacerbating the problem, and have with great disappointment agreed to focus on my health and recovery over the coming weeks. However, I look forward to rescheduling my recital presented by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for March 1, 2022.”

Let’s hope he heals quickly! Trifonov’s Carnegie Hall recital on Nov. 17 of the same program he would have played in Cincinnati is still on tap. Information:

The CSO will automatically honor all previously purchased tickets on the new recital date of MAR 1, 2022. If you are unable to attend the rescheduled date, please contact the Box Office at 513-381-3300 (M-F 10-5; SAT 10-2) for a flexible exchange or refund.

New work honoring late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to premiere in Dallas

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich/photo by Bill Keefrey

About two decades ago, I remember the world premiere of “Millennium Fantasy” for piano and orchestra by American composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in music. The soloist was pianist Jeffrey Biegel, who performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under Jesús López-Cobos. It was commissioned by a consortium of 27 orchestras — still a novel idea at the time. Zwilich became one of my favorite composers.

Now the talents of Jeffrey Biegel and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich have come together in the creation of “Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” honoring the late Supreme Court Justice. It will be premiered tonight by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya in Meyerson Symphony Center.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, photo provided

Zwilich’s new composition pays homage to and remembers Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the first anniversary of her death in September 2020. The new work will feature texts by poet/librettist Lauren K. Watel and will be performed by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves – one of Justice Ginsburg’s favorite opera singers, who sang at her memorial – and pianist Jeffrey Biegel.Read More »

Post-Covid Fall season in full swing

Pianist Daniil Trifonov takes bows at last weekend’s MusicNOW Festival at the CSO

After 18 months of virtual and a few outdoor performances, Cincinnati is back to live, in-person performances. Most arts organizations are requiring masking and proof of vaccine or testing to enter theaters. (Here are the rules.) So far, people are flocking back, and the ones I’ve met are happy to be back.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has been performing mini-festivals of new music over the last two weekends.

Here are links to my impressions of the CSO/MusicNOW Festival, founded by Bryce Dessner (who unfortunately was not in town), and an avant-garde program led by creative director Matthias Pintscher.

MusicNOW with Bonny Light Horseman and Daniil Trifonov

Trifonov and Louis Langree/Mark Lyons photo

MusicNOW with So percussion and Daniil Trifonov

Contemporary Colors, hailing the Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial.

All were late additions to the calendar, as the CSO won’t launch its subscription season until Oct. 29-30. Watch for a preview about their season later this month in the Business Courier.

The Cincinnati Pops has some “extras,” this fall, as well. John Morris Russell will lead an American program commemorating voting rights for women with singer/songwriter Aoife O’Donovan, Oct. 19 in Music Hall. Info here:

Yesterday, the Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame presented an induction ceremony for its sixth class of inductees, at Mount St. Joseph University. Read more here about that organization and how V. Kay Casey came to found it.

Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame sponsors a program for young jazz musicians, who play “Jazz at Dusk” around town — seen here at Caffe Vivace in Walnut HIlls

Also this weekend, the 108th season of Matinee Musicale opened in Memorial Hall. I’ll be writing more about that soon… as well as some of my thoughts about the innovative programs of Chamber Music Cincinnati coming up soon.


Cincinnati Opera knocks it out of the park for its 101st season

The “buck” moon rose after “Tosca” in Summit Park

Although the Cincinnati Opera 2021 Summer Festival isn’t over yet, I was lucky enough to attend all three opera productions, as well as the concert, “Opera in the Park.” As you know, the company mounted its 101st season outdoors at Summit Park, Blue Ash.

It was a complex operation. Here’s a story about what it took to set up the stage.

Midway through, I enjoyed catching up with star conductor Xian Zhang, who earned her doctorate at CCM.

Catching up with Xian Zhang between rehearsals for “Tosca” at Music Hall


Concert in the Park
One of the lighting towers for the outdoor stage

And here are links to my reviews of each production. Cincinnati Opera season concludes July 31.

There may be a few tickets left to sit on the lawn. 513-241-2742,



The Barber of Seville

CSO and Pops increase seating for in-person shows

Socially distant seating at a concert earlier this year by the Cincinnati Pops

Up to 500 seats are now available for all in-person CSO and Pops performances at Music Hall. In accordance with the expanded capacity for indoor events ordered by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, the orchestra has added availability for all in-person events this spring.

All performances will still be limited capacity with socially distanced seating and mask requirements throughout Music Hall. Read more about health and safety protocols.

In-person concerts at Music Hall continue this weekend with two different programs of Mozart with soloists Conrad Tao (Mozart Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major) and violinist Melissa White in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, in G Major, “Strasburg,” MAR 12-14 in Music Hall.

A CSO concert viewed from the balcony earlier this year.

From personal experience, I have felt very safe with all of the protocols that are in place. Concerts are about 70 to 80 minutes in length with no intermission.

I’ve been told that some concerts have added performances due to demand. Now that more people are getting vaccinated, I’m very optimistic that the demand will increase.

Don’t forget, I’m reviewing concerts again. You’ll find them on the Cincinnati Business Courier’s Arts Front (it’s free to read). Last week’s performance of Mahler’s “The Song of the Earth” was unforgettable. Click here to read about it.

Tickets: 513-381-3300,