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.

Impressive musical lineup to benefit Literacy Council

Lit_Council1 image 2019Next Sunday, June 23, an impressive lineup of local classical musicians will come together for a concert to benefit the Literacy Council of Clermont & Brown Counties. Reach for the Stars will take place at 4 p.m. June 23 at Knox Presbyterian Church in Hyde Park.

Spearheaded by Suzanne Bona, host of the nationally broadcast public radio program “Sunday Baroque” and an accomplished musician, the concert aims to raise awareness and funds for adult literacy.

“With the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we thought it would be fun to feature music with astronomical themes such as Holst’s ‘Mars’ and Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata,” said Bona. “Plus, Reach for the Stars is what the clients of the Literacy Council do every day as they open up the world of possibilities reading can bring.”Read More »

How pianist Frederic Chiu — at Xavier this week — fell in love with Prokofiev

Pianist Frederic Chiu/photo by Chris Craymer

I’m always inspired when I hear a recital by a remarkable pianist. Frederic Chiu returns to Cincinnati this Sunday, 2:30 p.m. April 28, in Xavier University’s Gallagher Center Theater for an all-Prokofiev program for the Xavier Piano Series.

Chiu’s early career followed a traditional path — such as winning an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and becoming perhaps more famous as a “non-winner” of the 1993 Van Cliburn Competition than the actual winner because of the uproar caused by his elimination.

Since then, his career has been anything but traditional. For starters, he’s a savvy marketer on the Internet. His Chopin Etudes have gone viral on YouTube, with more than 200,000 views.

Then, there’s Prokofiev’s music, to which he’s devoted a lifetime to performing and recording.  Here is his Q&A with me, where he explains how he developed his affinity for the Russian composer — and much more.

Q: When it comes to Prokofiev, have you made more recordings than anyone of his complete piano literature?

When you say complete piano recordings, it can be many different things. I think my complete Prokofiev is perhaps the most extensive collection, because I’ve included a number of transcriptions and added my own, so I feel like I’ve covered a lot more ground that most.Read More »