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 »

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.

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 »