Renée Fleming on ‘Music and the Mind’

Opera star Renée Fleming led a fascinating discussion about the healing power of music, with Dr. John Tew, Jr. and Dr. Chris Tuell. Photo provided by the CSO

Two days before performing Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs and other works with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, opera superstar Renée Fleming spoke on a panel about something close to her heart. America’s diva has become an advocate for the power of music, and how it affects our health, our brain, our healing — virtually everything about our being.

The conversation in Music Hall’s Ballroom on Wednesday was jointly presented by the CSO and the Lindner Center of Hope. Its participants included Dr. Chris Tuell, clinical director of addition services at the Lindner Center of Hope, and neurosurgeon Dr. John Tew, Jr., who was clinical director of the UC Neuroscience Institute for 15 years.

Fleming spearheads the Sound Health initiative as part of her role as artistic advisor to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She delivered an excellent lecture, saying her curiosity regarding the intersection of music and health was piqued when she noticed that researchers were studying music.

Her Sound Health project began at a dinner party that included Supreme Court justices Ginsburg and Scalia (who were famously good friends) as well as NIH director Francis Collins — who brought along his guitar, and they all began singing together. Besides showing that music has the power to bridge political differences, the evening prompted Fleming to propose that the Kennedy Center and NIH collaborate on researching music and health.

Because of the opera singer’s efforts, NIH has committed $20 million to this collaborative study. The National Endowment for the Arts has also become involved, and will announce a new research center this spring, she said.Read More »

Year in review: Lists and more lists

Danill Trifonov with the Ariel Quartet: For these performances, Trifonov collaborated with the celebrated Ariel Quartet, faculty quartet-in-residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. There was great anticipation to hear this 28-year-old Russian-born virtuoso, whose name is on everyone’s lips.

People often ask me why my reviews of local concerts are generally positive. The answer is this: The quality of Cincinnati’s performing arts compares favorably to anywhere I’ve traveled (and lived) in the world. It’s remarkable to consider the longevity of Cincinnati’s arts institutions, such as the Cincinnati Symphony, marking 125 this year, Cincinnati Opera, turning 100 this summer and the May Festival, founded in 1873.

It’s always difficult to pick just 10 memorable performances, because there were many more that should be included. You can read the list here.

There was also some arts news in 2019 — one even happened at the peak of the holiday season, when Cincinnati Opera announced that Chris Milligan will succeed Patty Beggs as general director and CEO. Click here to read the news.

And there was other arts news — such as the success of “Blink,” the four-day art and light festival in October. Looking back, several important people in the arts left us in 2019. Read that column here.

Cincinnati May Festival 2019

I hope you had a chance to catch some holiday shows this month. Some, such as Cincinnati Ballet’s magical Nutcracker, are still running. See the list here.

Handel’s ‘Messiah’ was given an intimate, authentic performance by Collegium Cincinnati.

I attended several shows. The performance I reviewed of Collegium Cincinnati’s “Messiah” performance illustrates the breadth and depth of local talent that we have across the region. Many of the performers were familiar as they appear with organizations such as Cincinnati Opera, CCM, the Vocal Arts Ensemble and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.

Watch for my list of upcoming performing events as well as art exhibitions that you won’t want to miss in 2020.

Don’t forget that the Business Courier’s Arts Front page is sponsored by ArtsWave, and therefore FREE to read. I’ve you’ve read three stories, you may be asked to sign up for a free subscription.

Pati, Sierra ravishing as star-cross’d lovers at SF Opera

Nadine Sierra and Pene Pati as Romeo and Juliet at San Francisco Opera. Photos provided/Cory Weaver

It’s always rewarding to see the understudy step in for the indisposed star, and become an “overnight” sensation. That is what happened at San Francisco Opera’s “Romeo and Juliet” earlier this month, when Samoan-born New Zealand tenor Pene Pati, who was scheduled to sing one performance, replaced Bryan Hymel for the entire run.

On Tuesday, I was able to catch a performance of the production, which opened the company’s 97th season in the War Memorial Opera House. I was partly interested because Cincinnati had the pleasure of being wowed by Pati in recital just last season for Matinee Musicale. But I was also interested in his Juliet — American soprano Nadine Sierra — who also performed a delicious recital for Matinee Musicale a couple of years ago. Since then, she has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera and won the 2017 Richard Tucker Award.

After the stunning performance by both of these artists on Tuesday, Cincinnatians can say, “We knew them when.”Read More »

In memoriam Christopher Rouse

American composer Christopher Rouse

Publisher Boosey & Hawkes has just announced that American composer Christopher Rouse died today at age 70 in Baltimore.

His final work, Symphony No. 6, will have its world premiere on October 18-19 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Louis Langrée.

A prolific composer of a wide range of acclaimed chamber and ensemble works, Christopher Rouse built a legacy as one of America’s greatest orchestral voices. His catalog of influential works is marked by extreme emotional depth and colorful orchestration, and reflected his insatiable curiosity for music from across Western music history to popular rock.Read More »

In memoriam Alice Weston

Alice Weston with one of her photographs, which I took in her home in 2012

Cincinnati lost a giant in the arts this week when Alice Weston, philanthropist and artist, passed away at age 93. Over the years, I interviewed Alice a number of times on a variety of topics, from her own extraordinary work in photography, shown above, to works she commissioned for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. One of my favorite interviews, though, was conducted with her cousin, Jane Ellis, about their experiences as children in the Philippines.Read More »

Chuck Miller, savior of Sorg Opera House, steps down

Chuck Miller in his element, backstage at the Sorg

It took a man with a vision to see the beauty behind the dilapidated and abandoned Sorg Opera House in Middletown. Now, as John Kiesewetter reports this morning, Chuck Miller has resigned as president of the Sorg Opera Revitalization Group (SORG) to become the new executive director of the historic “State Movie Palace of Kansas,” the Fox Theatre in Hutchinson. Wife Denise Brodsky has also resigned her position on the board.

Current board members Roger Daniels and Chris Riva are stepping in to fill roles, although his successor has not been decided.

Here’s my story from about a year ago of how Chuck and his devoted board have been working — extremely hard — to restore the Hannaford-built theater to its former grandeur.

There are similarities between the Sorg Opera House (1891) and Music Hall (1878) as you can see in the balconies. Both were designed by Samuel Hannaford. The Sorg is on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the lobby
You can visit your old Music Hall seats

I’m posting a few memories of visiting the Sorg while these dedicated preservationists were at work restoring and programming a series of concerts in the hall. By the way, the acoustics are wonderful. And, for people who remember Music Hall’s old seats, you can revisit them up in Middletown.

Good luck Chuck and Denise! You’ll be missed.