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Summer Music in Cincinnati

Rafael de Acha
Posted: May 19, 2015 - 11:49:12 AM in news_2015

The Queen City, so nicknamed in the 19th century because of its ideal position for  commerce, with the Mississippi River flowing past its downtown, gradually became a center for the arts in the Midwest, and, to this day, continues to be a hub of music, theatre, dance and the visual arts even in the southern Ohio summers, when daytime temperatures can rise up and stay in the 90’s for days on end.

But the evenings are a respite from the heat, and this summer Cincinnati is again filled with musical choices in the evenings all throughout late May, June, July, August and well into mid-September, when the music series and seasons again rev up their motors.

Cincinnati May Festival

Haydn’s The Creation is the greatest creation of an aging composer writing at the peak of his powers music that grapples with the very mystery of life. On Friday, May 22, in Music Hall at 8 pm, James Conlon opens his final Cincinnati May Festival, leading the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the May Festival Chorus, soprano Amanda Woodbury, tenor Ben Bliss and bass Kristinn Sigmundsson in a performance of Haydn’s magnum opus. A recital at 7 pm with soprano Rebecca Evans preludes the event.

The next night, Handel’s Coronation Anthems and Ralph Vaughn Williams’ A Sea Symphony are conducted by Robert Porco, with Ms. Evans and baritone Roderick Williams as soloists. At 7 p.m., bass Kristinn Sigmundsson gives a pre-concert recital.

The following weekend begins with a performance of Berlioz’ monumental Requiem on Friday May 29, at 8 pm. The work calls for massive forces: an augmented symphony orchestra, as large a chorus as can be assembled, in Berlioz’ own words, and a first-class tenor soloist. James Conlon conducts the May Festival Chorus and orchestra, with tenor Barry Banks. Sara Murphy, mezzo-soprano sings a pre-concert recital at 7 pm.

On Saturday, May 30, a 7 pm recital by Barry Banks begins the evening, after which Tchaikovsky’s barn-storming 1812 Overture opens the 8 pm concert, with James Conlon conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, with Mikhail Kolelishvili singing the poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko as soloist in the Symphony No. 13, Babi Yar, by Dmitri Shostakovich, a composition written in memory of those who perished in Nazi extermination camps during WWII. The program also features excerpts from Mussorgsky’s Khovantschina.

 Music Under The Stars

This audience-friendly series is one of those still- undiscovered Cincinnati gems worth exploring. A line up of five concerts on June 4, 17 and 24, and on July 21 and 28, three of which feature ensembles from within the ranks of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, all modestly priced at $15, all with starting times of 7 pm to take advantage of summer’s later-time sunsets, will be given in the majestic formal gardens of Greenacres Arts Center in Indian Hill. The gates open at 6 pm,and concertgoers are encouraged to bring picnics and enjoy the eats and the concert sitting on the grass or on the folding chairs provided by the organizers.

Cincinnati Pops

The Pops reaches out to an audience not yet captured by the City’s classical music presenters, by interspersing their mostly-pop and show-music programming with the occasional classical warhorse. With specific repertoire not yet announced, the Pops (largely made up of CSO members) plays three out of four of its free concerts outdoors at Riverbend on June 6, July 4 and July 24), and one ticketed one indoors, on July 18 at the Taft Theatre, in downtown Cincinnati, where the complete Star Trek score of John Williams will be played to accompany the 2009 film. More information at www.cincinnatipops.org/summer  

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Community Concerts

June 7 in Washington Park, across from Music Hall, begins the 5-concert line-up of the CSO, which has the big band barnstorming three Ohio locations on June 25 (Troy), July 1 (Miami Whitewater Forest), July 20 (Washington Court House) and then double-backing to end up where it started for the annual Lumenocity outdoor extravaganza on August 5 through 9. Four of the six concerts will set you back zero dollars and further information can be obtained at www.cincinnatipops.org/summer  

World Piano Competition

Some very promising young pianists vie for big cash prizes, recital appearances, and a chance to perform with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the World Piano Competition, that runs from June 7 through 13 at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Tickets are sold through the CSO Box Office.

Cincinnati Opera

2015 marks the 95th anniversary of the Cincinnati Opera, which kicks off its season on June 7 with a free concert in Washington Park. On June 18 and 20:  Giuseppe Verdi’s improbable tale of twists and turns of fate and gloriously melodic Il Trovatore opens the CO season.

Ricky Ian Gordon’s and William M. Hoffman’s Morning Star, adapted from Sylvia Regan's 1940 play, follows a family of Russian Jewish immigrants in New York City, during the early 20th century. In the acoustically –perfect Corbett Theatre of Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts, this work receives its world premiere, on June 30, July 2, 8, 10, 12, 17 and 19.

With husband and wife Burak Bilgili and Eglise Gutiérrez in the roles of old Don Pasquale and his very young bride Norina, and performances on July 9 and 11, Donizetti’s domestic comedy, Don Pasquale continues the season.

On July 25, 29 and 31, Turandot – Giacomo Puccini’s last opera, brigs the season to a close with soprano Marcy Stonikas in the role of the icy princess whose heart melts at the end of the last act of the opera the Italian master never finished.

Artistic director Evans Mirageas gives his popular Opera Insights one hour before each performance. Visit www.cincinnatopera.org


The latest addition to Cincinnati’s music scene and a most welcome supplier of much needed music during the dog days of August in Cincinnati, Summermusik is a brainchild of the energetic folks at the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.

Summermusik will serve to re-introduce to Cincinnati audiences the gifted young conductor Kelly Kuo, who will lead the CCO in three of the festival concerts. He will also accompany soprano Sarah Coburn at the piano in a chamber music concert.

There are over a dozen events being given between June 4 and September 3 by the newly spruced up CCO, which given the imaginative programming planned for several venues throughout the City augurs well for the success of Summermusik. Prior to the inaugural August 15 concert, there will be three free pop concerts in the bandstand by the lake in Burnett Woods.

On August 15 the Festival begins in earnest with an interesting program featuring off-the-beaten-path selections by Storace, Shostakovich, and Chopin, with the young Eric Lu as the piano soloist. The venue is the intimate Corbett Theatre in the School for Creative and Performing Arts, a stone’s throw from Music Hall.

On August 29 the mixing of classical and pop and world music that will be the hallmark of Summermusik will bring The Faux Frenchmen to Cincinnati, keeping company with Beethoven and Mozart in the same program.

Four Chamber Crawls in various venues around the city will allow the music fans to  sit at tables and sip a drink as they listen to Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, and Piazzolla on August 16 at the Northside Tavern and then repeat the experience five days later on August 21 at the York Street Café in Covington, and on September 1 at the Scene Ultra Lounge, each time with different artists and repertoire, sometimes free, and each and every time at 8 p.m.

A batch of interesting concerts titled A Little Afternoon Musik, will take place, one at CCM’s Werner Recital Hall, on August 16, with pianist Eric Lu, another one at the Mercantile Library on August 21, with soprano Sarah Coburn, and yet another one at the Unwind Wine Bar, in Hyde Park, on August 30, all at 4 p.m. Encompassing everything from Rachmaninoff songs to the CCO woodwinds playing Mozart, Beethoven, Milhaud, Ibert and D'Rivera, to music by the Beatles’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the CCO offerings sound intriguing.

The month-long festivities end on September 3 with a concert that will include music by Rameau, Mozart, Lutosławski and Bottesini with violinist Cho-Liang Lin and bassist DaXun Zhang, fronting the CCO conducted by Kelly Kuo.

For those events that are not free, single tickets can be had for $25, a 4-concert flexible pass for $80 and the full pass (for all events) for $150. Further information at 513-723-1182. Better yet, visit their very attractive website at www.ccocincinnati.org

Rafael de Acha regularly writes on music, opera, dance and theatre for www.seenandheard- international.com and for his own Facebook blog, Music for All Seasons in Cincinnati This article first appeared on those sites.