A Chorus Line at CCM – Oct. 20-30 at Patricia Corbett Theater


On the Line

When A Chorus Line opened on Broadway in 1975 nobody had any inkling that this show with no stars, born as a workshop with no set and no real plot to speak of, would go on to receive twelve Tony nominations, winning eight Tony Awards, a host of Obies, Drama Desk Awards, the Olivier Award, and a Pulitzer for Best American Play, and run for six thousand one hundred and thirty-seven performances.


Now at CCM, A Chorus Line has opened with a formidable cast of Broadway-bound young hopefuls who will sometime soon be stepping up to the line. At that point they will hopefully be cast in their first professional gig after school. And like that line there will be many other lines during their careers where they will stand hoping to be cast.


The twenty-some young men and women on the line on the stage of the Patricia Corbett Theatre at CCM are dancing, singing and acting for all it’s worth. Under the firm guidance of choreographer-director Diane Lala and conductor Roger Grodsky they defy you not to be moved and charmed by the stories of the characters they play.


The stunning visual aspects of the production again remind us that CCM is unarguably one of the top theatre arts training centers in the country. From Matthew D. Hamel‘s clean-lined and symbolic set to Lindi-Joy Wilmot‘s period-perfect costumes to Jeremy Dominik‘s gorgeous lighting the show’s design by students is as good as you will get outside of the school by seasoned pros.


Leading the lineup of excellence, the very fine Hamilton Moore, plays Zach the director-choreographer who conducts the audition, as implacable and chilling as winter in Wisconsin. Alec Cohen as Mike, singing I Can Do That is a splendid loose-jointed comic dancer. Phillip Johnson-Richardson is a bundle of pent up singing-dancing energy as Richie. Christopher Kelley delivers an extraordinary acting turn as the conflicted Paul. Kimberly Pine, a stunning singing/ dancing Cassie nearly highjacks the show with her The Music and the Mirror.


After all the laughter and tears, what remains and resonates and lingers in the mind about this gem of a show is One Singular Sensation, the final number in which all the dancers – both those who made the cut and those who didn’t put on their glittery top hats and costumes, dancing and singing for their supper and for their souls.


Rafael de Acha


The Cincinnati arts season is in full swing and as it does, it becomes increasingly more difficult to decide where to go.
Assuming that your preferences are not too different from ours, here’s a few suggestions about what to look for in the coming weeks.
* At CCM opening on Thursday this week and running through Sunday, the musical Chorus Line is being presented on the stage of the Patricia Corbett Theatre. The show features the music of Marvin Hamlisch, including the 1970’s hit song “What I Did For Love”.
Chorus Line follows the backstage story of a group of dancers auditioning for what could be their next ticket to fame (or at least their next job) on Broadway.
The show made history when it first ran on Broadway in 1975 for a total of 6,137 performances, winning both the Tony and Pulitzer awards over the next year.
Word to the wise: this is one of the hottest tickets in town. If interested, go on line and check out the availability of tickets on the CCM website (ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice )
Or try to telephone the box office at 513-556-4183 and be prepared to wait patiently while they place you on hold.
* On the movie screens this Saturday (check out on line listings for a theater near you) Mozart’s telling of the decline and fall of the baddest dude in Seville.
The cast for the MET’s “Don Giovanni” features the English superstar baritone Simon Keenlyside back from a bad bout of throat troubles, in the title role of the fellow who bedded 640 ladies in Italy, 231 in Germany, 100 in France, 91 in Turkey, and in Spain (get ready) 1003.
The surrounding cast is top of the line, with Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava as the slighted Donna Anna, Malin Byström as the even more slighted Donna Elvira, and Serena Malfi as the about to be slighted Zerlina.
Among those also slighted by Don Giovanni in the male contingent, look for Mozart specialists Adam Plachetka as Leporello and Paul Appleby as Don Ottavio.
Fabio Luisi conducts.

* Tenor Pedro Arroyo in recital at CCM.
If the word “recital” makes you run for the hills or for the nearest TV, stop now.
We speak here of an intimate concert with one of the finest tenor voices we have heard at CCM in the past few years.
On Friday October 28 at 5 PM, Pedro Arroyo, is singing his Swan Song at CCM’s Werner Recital Hall before he picks up his Doctor of Musical Arts diploma and heads on out for greener pastures (the kind where they pay you to sing).
He has invited several fellow artists to be with him that evening to share with his loyal following a sampling of songs by Oliver Messiaen, Ralph Vaughn Williams, Franz Schubert, and the premiere of fellow Puerto Rican Iván Enrique Rodríguez’ Si yo fuera Adán.
Even if this free-admission event charged for tickets (which it does not) I would encourage you to attend. On of these days you will be able to say that you heard Pedro Arroyo at CCCM before he became a star tenor.


The old-fashioned, conventional recital – you know, the kind that aspiring instrumentalists and singers  are expected to do as part of their rite of passage from advanced student to young pro – well, as we have all been dreading all of these years, that kind of performance format entered rigor mortis a long time ago.
Back in the days of Sol Hurok’s Concert Association, the lovers of concert music in communities big and small around the country were able to hear rising and established singers and pianists and violinists and string quartets in their local auditorium, often for a very modest admission price.
During one season in Los Angeles I caught George London, Sherrill Milnes, Tito Schipa, Teresa Berganza and William Warfield in solo recitals. Years later, in college, I heard Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Herman Prey, Gerard Souzay, Hughes Cuenod, Jenny Tourel…
But those were the good old days.
What about now? Where are the enterprising impresarios (to use an old fashioned word) to revitalize the recital of art songs?
A daring  young man, Samuel Martin by name, has just begun something called the Cincinnati Song Initiative.
CSI has programed two more concerts between now and April of next year, and if today’s one is any indication of what Samuel Martin and his fellow artists can achieve, we must celebrate the arrival of a winning enterprise on the Cincinnati musical scene.
The concert, just right in length and variety, included the familiar – Charles Ives and Stephen Foster, aptly described by the fine tenor Jason Weisinger as the grandfather and the great-grandfather of American art song.
But there were discoveries too: some Ned Rorem we had never heard before, a dramatic cycle by Libby Larsen, Try Me, Good King, sensitively sung by soprano Alexandra Schoeny. There also was Mixed Connections,  a collection of vignettes with texts cleverly culled from Facebook postings nicely set to music by David Sisco, and delivered with theatrical flair by Weisinger.
In both the initial grouping of Rorem and Ives songs in which Soprano Alexandra Schoeny and Weisinger effectively alternated and, later, in a Libby Larsen cycle, pianist Marie France Lefebvre faultlessly supported the singers with her keenly attentive accompanying.
Soprano Shareese Arnold was accompanied at the piano by the excellent Matthew Umphreys, who also supported to perfection Jason Weisinger in the David Sisco group.
Shareese Arnold sang a group of songs written by American black composers: William Grant Still, Cedric Adderley, Valerie Capers and Undine Smith Moore. Her voice is a superb instrument which she handles and colors in a multitude of ways, placing it at the service of both music and text, never better than in her delivery of Watch and Pray, a harrowing depiction of a slave mother in dialogue with her little daughter, from whom she is about to be separated. What could be in lesser hands an overwrought moment was turned by Ms. Arnold into a scene of gripping tragic gravity.
Samuel Martin secured the intimate downstairs space of  the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery. He then invited several excellent musicians to embrace his program choices for the initial event, and avoiding the word “recital”, he aptly titled it Americana a cultural tapestry, a title as welcoming and unpretentious as the entire event.
At the end of the concert Martin reluctantly and much too modestly joined his fellow artists for a group bow. He must take another one – a solo bow now, as we look forward to his continuing the weaving of the tapestry he has so lovingly begun.
Rafael de Acha
CSI’s next concert is slated for January 28, at 7:30 PM at the Mercantile Library.
For information visit http://www.cincinnatisonginitiative.org/events


tom-jones-_-24They Were You the songs of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt

Today I found the answer to the title of our review, Where do all the good songs go?

Exactly fifty-six years ago Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt wrote their first show, The Fantasticks.

Who would have thought that a little show set on a nearly-empty stage, with a cast of seven, no chorus, no orchestra, just a piano and harp, I think, and a hope and a prayer would turn out to be the longest-running musical play ever. In the world.

And now, all these years later, director Aubrey Berg has assembled a nifty revue with (count’ em) forty gems from the Schmidt and Jones’ trunk of treasures.

Lyricist Tom Jones and songwriter Harvey  Schmidt, ever restless and not at all happy to repose on their laurels and live off their royalties, went on to write Celebration, 110 in the Shade, The Bone Room, Colette, Mirette, Philemon, Roadside, and I do! I Do!

Writing for the musical theatre is a perilous enterprise not fit for the faint of heart, in which each new show is a throw of the dice.

Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Cole Porter, and, from earlier generations, Jerome Kern and George Gershwin wrote during the years in which a song from a musical could top the charts when sung by a Sinatra or a Crosby or an Ella or a Rosemary Clooney.

Schmidt and Jones soldiered on valiantly during a transitional era in New York theatre.

As off-Broadway production costs became increasingly prohibitive, musicals got pushed in the direction of Broadway.  And if you turned on the radio you were more likely to get Elvis or the Beatles than Tony Martin.

Bigger casts, bigger orchestrations, bigger production values. crashing chandeliers, descending helicopters, singing felines began to dominate Broadway stages, and the chamber musical, a direct descendant of the European cabaret, became a theatrical equivalent of the horse and buggy.

Paraphrasing Noel Coward’s prophetic words, “The cafe society was becoming the Nescafe society”.

But, mercifully, not all is lost because Aubrey Berg has lovingly assembled a brace of songs by Schmidt and Jones and grouped them thematically in eight cohesive sections.
Songs of Love is the first grouping. That is easy. Aren’t all songs ultimately about love?

On the contrary, they can be about Battle of the Sexes, Marital Bliss… That is still in the neighborhood of Love.

But what about Songs of Disillusion, Learning Who You Are, The Natural World, Songs of Experience, The Human Spirit?

Those are the eight sections of the show.

Schmidt and Jones songs range from the deeply moving to the hilarious, to the reflective, to the satirical, to the ironic.  In short, songs about the human experience.

The lyrics are urbane, the rhymes unpredictable, the melodies free-flowing…Very good songs, indeed. Don’t they write songs like those any more? Every songwriter finds his own way. I just wish more of today’s songwriters could land such felicitous rhymes and such singer-friendly melodies.

The revue format allows for a song taken out of context, plucked, as it were, from its natural dramatic habitat in whatever show it belongs, to take a life of its own and allow one to isolate everything else, all the paraphernalia, all the trappings, all the baggage…and for a few very special minutes to partake of its existence, just you and the song and the singer as the messenger.

Aubrey Berg facilitated that experience. He gave six fabulously talented messengers a bare stage with a poetic set by Thomas C. Umfrid – a painted canvas with a sky that could be day, night, sunrise, sunset and an orb that could be earth or the moon…just a few hand props…no real costumes, just jeans and sweaters for the guys and pretty dresses for the ladies.

All that, and subtle, lovely lighting by Parker Conzone.

Avoiding the maudlin and the overwrought, Berg made theatrical magic happen, greatly aided by Katie Johannigman‘s endlessly inventive choreography.

Stephen Goers and Luke Flood are two protean pianists who might as well send the next orchestra with which they have a gig on a well-deserved break, as the two of them can make two keyboards sound like a pit full of players.

There’s no need to single out any one of the six outrageously gifted young artists in the cast. Let me merely give you their names and entreat you to make mental note of them, with the assurance that, sooner than you think, you will be hearing these names: Gabe Wrobel, Emily Fink, Stavros Koumbaros, Aria Brasswell, Karl Amundsen and Michelle Coben.

As for Tom Jones, as gracious a person as he is an enormously gifted lyricist, let us thank him and his writing partner Harvey Schmidt for a great legacy of unforgettable songs.

And thanks again to Aubrey Berg for astounding us yet one more time.

Rafael de Acha

October 10, 2016

A brief opera about a brief life

Manuel de Falla’s La Vida Breve taps into the emotions.
Soprano Claire Divizio
The libretto of La Vida Breve by Carlos Fernandez-Shaw presents more dramatic obstacles for the stage director than dramatic verisimilitude, and yet one can’t help but love this opera.
Manuel de Falla wrote it around 1904-1905 but did not see it on stage until it was done in a French translation in Nice in 1913.
At the time of its composition de Falla had not had much experience writing for the stage. The young composer, still in his twenties sought the advice of Claude Debussy, an older composer whom de Falla much admired.
Debussy told him after the work’s premiere to go back to the drawing board and cut out all the starts and stops, so typical of the zarzuela genre prevalent on Spanish stages at the turn of the century.
Six months later de Falla had the entire score re-written and ready for its Paris premiere.
Shame that La Vida Breve (The Brief Life) is not produced more often these days. The score, barely an hour-long,  is rich in melody and as generous to the orchestra as it is to its singers.
The cast of three principals and a half-dozen supporting roles plus chorus has no down time. There is a terrific dance sequence in act II and an Intermedio depicting sunset in Granada which is often heard in symphonic concerts.
And there is high-stakes melodrama.
The opera rides on the shoulders of its conductor and its principal female character, Salud a gypsy woman in love with Paco, an upper-class man about to be married to one of his own kind.
Trouble looms ahead.
In the upcoming production of Manuel de Falla’s La Vida Breve (The Brief Life), scheduled to run at NKU on November 11-13, soprano Claire Divizio sings the role of Salud.
Having under her belt the roles of the Il Trovatore Leonora, Giorgietta in Il Tabarro, and Hanna in The Merry Widow bodes well for the young Chicago-based soprano, who is about to step into some sizeable shoes previously worn by two of the greatest Spanish singers of the 20th century, Victoria de los Angeles and Teresa Berganza.
NKU and The Cincinnati Chamber Opera are jointly bringing to life La   Vida Breve, in a production helmed by music director Stephen Variames and stage director Marcus Shields.
Also in the cast, tenor Pedro Arroyo sings Paco and mezzo-soprano Melissa Bonetti plays the role of Abuela.
Tickets and information: 513 580 4440 http://www.cincinnatichamberopera.org



In the past week there has been a  flurry of back and forth BLOG POSTINGS AND comments about the issue of racial stereotyping in the Metropolitan Opera’s twenty-five year old production of Rossini’s The Italian Girl in Algiers.

Many of these postings were prompted by a New York Times review of the revival of Jean Pierre Ponelle’s 1973 production written by Corina da Fonseca Wollheim, a well respected music critic, and by recent postings in www. Parterre.com and in Greg Sandow’s blog.

Note the age of the production mentioned in the first paragraph in order to pinpoint the simple fact that here we are discussing an interpretation by a French stage director of an opera that had its 200th birthday three years ago.

But first things first.

Angelo Anelli, the opera’s librettist was a better political activist and Law professor than he was a lyric poet. But at age 21 Rossini could not have his pick of the best, and he had to, like it or not, work with the Anelli for the three weeks it took them to whip up into shape L’Italiana in Algeri .

Note also that this was Rossini’s eleventh opera, a work by a still-immature composer. Just a year later Rossini tackled Il Turco in Italia (The Turk in Italy)  and by then he was working with librettist Felice Romani, a much better librettist than Anelli, someone who was able to deliver a still comical but nicer picture of foreigners from the Muslim world than Anelli was, the year before.

After those two works, Rossini wrote at lightning speed twenty-seven more operas, several of them dealing with stories set in Asian and African countries and all of them seen through the squinting eyes of 19th century Europeans.

In  Armida the title character is both Princess of Damascus and a sorceress bent on turning all visiting Crusaders into sexual trophies. The Crusades is again the background in Rossini’s next opera, Riccardo e Zoraide, one in which citizens of “ancient Nubia” are less than fairly portrayed. In Semiramide and in The Siege of Corinth the exotics fare no better morally and ethically than in all those other operas.

Many of us saw the Jean Pierre Ponelle production of L’italiana in Algeri in the early 1970’s, with Marilyn Horne in the role of Isabella. At the time nobody was too preoccupied, let-alone straight-jacketed by the kind of political correctness that influences much of what we say and do these days.

But, for its time, Ponelle’s ham-fisted approach to Rossini’s comic opera was tolerated by some and ignored by many. Few judged it wrong. Many of us thought it was silly and only intermittently funny.

Last time I checked this is 2016 and more than forty years have passed. We look at stage works these days through a different prism.

If we are going to take on the challenge of staging some of the great operas in the Canon we should be mindful of the implicit intention of the composer and the librettist and strive to set the great operas of  Rossini, Wagner, Verdi and Mozart in the time and place intended by their creators. With that approach, issues of political correctness  would become irrelevant. They would be admitted as imperfect but invaluable stage works of and for their time, still viable and stage-worthy today.

We do not have to approach theatrical works of art with reverence. We should simply take them at their own worth, respecting the intentions of librettist and composer, endeavoring to convey with conviction their meaning to a contemporary audience.

We saw an Aida set in a modern-day Cairo, as it was in a hapless production of Francesca Zambello  at the Glimmerglass Opera a few summers ago. The stage was chock-full of gun-toting thugs bullying the enemy and a finale in which they water-boarded Radames.

Directors like Ms. Zambello often misdirect and render productions  incomprehensible, no matter how many densely written program notes or supertitles they throw at the unsuspecting patrons who have bought high-priced tickets hoping for a nice evening in the opera house.

There are many other similar and worse instances of directorial hubris or just plain stupidity to which I have been subjected in nearly fifty years of going to the theatre.

There was a Santa Fe Opera production of Beethoven’s Fidelio directed by the well-respected Stephen Wadsworth. In the finale of the second act the liberating army hung the Union Jack as part of the final tableau.

And I thought that opera was meant to be set in Spain.

Operatic libretti, from Monteverdi to Verdi contain wrong-headed and at times xenophobic utterances by their characters. And that – characters – is just the point. These are characters speaking or singing. They are not nor should they be the mouthpieces of their authors.

It would be foolhardy to claim that Wagner was an Anti-Semite, unless we had evidence to back up the claim. Well, we do, and his tract,  Jewry in Music amply proves it.

So does Hans Sachs address to the townspeople at the end of the third act of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg prove that Hans Sachs, the character, not Richard Wagner, the composer is a take-no-prisoners nationalist.

In Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Monostatos, the Moor  is depicted as a despicable creep whose soul is, in the words of the “noble” Sarastro, “as black as your skin.”

How’s that for political incorrectness?

In  The Abduction from the Seraglio, the Turks are portrayed as sexist, cruel and not-too-bright, notwithstanding Pasha Selim’s letting go of Constanza and his forgiving of Belmonte.

Historical accuracy is not what should measure the worth of works that were written centuries ago.

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, a problematic play more Elizabethan than Italian in its story-telling and in its treatment of “Shylock, the Jew” has long given stage directors a run for their money. But, if you are going to stage the play, for Pete’s sake don’t white-wash it.

The Bard did no better by the title character in Othello, if you think about it, portraying the noble Moorish General at the service of the Republic of Venice as pathological nut-case and wife-killer. Aaron, the Moor (another one) in Titus Andronicus is as nasty a sociopath  as they come. But they are what they are, 17th century portrayals of “savage” foreigners.

No producer in his or her right mind would permit a stage director to stage Oklahoma in Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma City, portraying Judd as a modern-day low-level drug dealer. The Estate of Rodgers and Hammerstein would slap them with a cease-and-desist court order and or take them to court. An infamous production of R & H’s South Pacific, directed by Anne Bogart set on a battleship in WWII is still talked about.

Then you have the countless exercises in Regietheater,  excesses perpetrated by any number of (mostly) European and American (a few) stage directors.

Under Peter Gelb’s management the MET has treated its audience to a Rat Pack Rigoletto, a La Sonnambula set in a rehearsal room, a Jack-in-the-Box Peter Grimes, a doped-up Lucia, a Daliesque La Traviata with no girls in sight among Violetta’s guests, and now a Tristan und Isolde set inside a battle ship (another one).

In trotting out these pretentious exercises in preciousness opera companies are not breaking any theatrical ground but merely imposing directorial idiocy on audiences who should know better but do not.

All of which brings us back to the original point. Political correctness is yet one more layer that should not be imposed on classics.

Otherwise, stick to contemporary operas, with living composers and librettists still around to safeguard their intellectual property. That is something that the long-dead Mozart and Verdi and Wagner cannot do.

Rafael de Acha



If your notion of a dance concert is one of toe shoes and tutus and little girls that aspire to become famous ballerinas showing off for moms and dads with cellphones at the ready to take videos, you will not get any of that when you go to a dance concert by Mam-Luft & Co. Dance. (www.mamluftcodance.org) mamluft

MLC, for short, is all about Modern Dance. No, actually, make that contemporary dance. Modern Dance has been around for over a century while Mam-Luft & Company and its dancers have been around for just ten seasons, which, as dance troupes goes makes them both youngsters and survivors in the touch-and-go world of dance.

They have a three-concert season that begins this coming November 9th with several performances at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. In that opening concert, aptly titled 5 of 10, the MLC dancers bring back five dance pieces from their ten-year repertory. Of these, the one voted audience favorite will be repeated in their May 5-6 pair of concerts – Homecoming – at the Aronoff Center’s second space.

Those are their two Cincinnati concerts. On March 31 through April 2 they will be at NKU collaborating with their students on a new work.

MLC is led by Jeanne Mam-Luft, who functions as the company’s leader, artistic director and business manager. She supplements the company’s modest ticket income by teaching dance to kids and adults throughout the year and in various locations around the area within an outreach program partially supported by Artswave, Ohio Arts and the generosity of a handful of donors.

I can personally vouch for the high artistic quality of this indispensable member of the small but growing Cincinnati dance scene, having reviewed and raved about their work for the past three years.

But remember, this is not our grandfather’s dance..

Rafael de Acha



No, I promise I will not overwhelm you with a whole lot of musicological gobbledigook about Tristan and Isolde and The Meaning of Life. This is a consumer alert, not Introduction to Wagner 101. And there won’t be a quiz.

The Metropolitan Opera (aka The Met) opens its season in less than two weeks with a new production of Richard Wagner‘s oh-so-hard-to-pull-off Tristan und Isolde. Unless you are a tried and true Wagnerian you need to be reminded that this is not an operatic walk in the park.  Neither for the singers nor for the listeners.

And, at NEARLY FIVE HOURS RUNNING TIME of which four are just music and one hour is taken up by two thirty minute intermissions THIS OPERA IS NOT FOR THE UNIITIATED.
Which begs the question…

First things first. T & I is so very, very, very difficult to cast that for a while, back in the 80’s and for a period of fifteen or so years the MET pulled it off its schedule. There had been a long list of vocal mishaps, with wannabe Tristans and not-quite-ready-for-the-big-time Isoldes bitting the operatic dust half-way through this grueling operatic triathlon that the whole thing became a futile exercise and an embarrassment.

Well, first look at the running time: four hours (ballpark) of stentorian singing at the top and bottom of the singer’s range, competing against an augmented orchestra that can number close to one hundred players, singing in an opera house that can range on the average upwards of 3,000 seats (the MET has 3,800) in which microphones are considered a criminal offense.

Should I go on?

And then there is that thing called tradition, which in Opera can amount to a curse. Some of us have been going to the opera longer than some of our  readers have been alive. That usually means that along with wonderul memories comes heavy baggage.

I can hardly get into a conversation with opera fans that will not include someone rattling off a long list of who he or she heard back when in the 1950 opening of the Upper Slavovian Opera House. 

And in the case of Wagner and, especially, Wagnerian singers, one will inevitably hear the names of Lauritz Melchior, Set Svanholm, Jon Vickers, Siegfried Jerusalem, Jess Thomas and how they don’t make them like that anymore.

Singing Wagner, especially his killer roles, calls for a huge voice, superhuman stamina and keen intelligence. The intelligence part has to do with knowing how to pace yourself as a singer, when to pull out the stops and when to pull back. Sing at full throttle all the time and trouble looms ahead.

But, lucky us, the MET has found a robust Australian by the name of Stuart Skelton. The singing Aussie has been making a name for himself in the operatic world singing all sorts of impossible Wagnerian parts, after graduating from our very own CCM thirty years ago.

Tristan und Isolde opens the Met season in a new production by Mariusz Treliński in a matter of days and with a top-notch cast headed by Stuart Skelton and Nina Stemme as the doomed lovers, surrounded by bass René Pape as King Marke, Ekaterina Gubanova as Brangäne and Sir Simon Rattle conducting.

The MET season opened this past Monday September 26 and soon opera fans accross the country will be able to sit in comfort, just a few feet away from a movie screen and for a mere $20 watch a show that would set one back several hundreds of dollars if one were lucky enough to find a ticket to the MET in NYC.

And that would not include air fare and hotel and meals in the Big Apple.

Here in Cincinnati you can catch the MET HD presentation of T&I on several movie screens on Saturday October 8 at noon.

Which movie screens? That’s your homework. That and listening to the You Tube links I’ve posted:
1) Stuart Skelton sings the Love Duet  from Tristan und Isolde with soprano Heidi Melton (in English!)  https://youtu.be/ajXTklhL6Xg
2) Nina Stemme sings the Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde https://youtu.be/j8enypX74hU

And to bone up on the plot, just google it.

See you at the Opera!

Rafael de Acha





Kimberly and I are going to see THEY WERE YOU

THEY WERE YOU is a musical revue featuring the most memorable songs from the musicals of the song-writing team of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.

If that doesn’t ring a bell, then try to remember Try To Remember the hit song from Schmidt and Jones’ beloved musical, The Fantasticks, which just happens to have been the longest running musical show in American theatre history.

Come see the show and celebrate Celebration and the fact that the temperature inside CCM’s COHEN STUDIO THEATRE will be nowhere near 110 in the Shade, even when the fabulous cast kicks up their heels…and while you think about it, say to yourself in gratitude for living in Cincinnati with all this arts stuff going on all the time: “My Cup Runneth Over” and, finally, if someone asks you if you are planning to catch one of only FIVE performances at CCM this coming week starting on Wednesday and running through Saturday, be sure to answer I Do, I Do!!!

This production represents the first comprehensive revue ever put together featuring Jones and Schmidt’s work, and after CCM’s Musical Theatre Guru Aubrey Berg is finished with his sure-to-be brilliant staging and choreographer Katie Johannigman has gotten everyone in dancing shape, the show is in the hands of musical director Steve Goers and six phenomenally talented singing-dancing-acting performers: Gabe Wrobel…Emily Fink…Stavros Koumbaros…Aria Braswell…Karl Amundson…Michelle Coben


See you at the show!

Rafael de Acha



And now, just in, from Navona Records (www.navonarecods.com), comes Mi Palpita Il Cor, an elegant new release featuring music by Steffani, Sammartini, Handel, Telemann and Rameau.

This Baroque banquet features the members of the west coast group Musica Pacifica, a renowned ensemble specializing in Baroque music. The five members of the group’ play ancient or replicas of old instruments in their work, and the sound they produce is as authentic as you will ever hear.

The ensemble is led by Judith Linsenberg, who plays the soprano, alto and tenor recorders and the rare voice flute, used nowadays as a substitute for the transverse flute. She is a master of all her instruments and an ideal equal partner in all five of the compositions featured in the album

Elizabeth Blumenstock is the group’s fine violinist, playing in this recording a 1660 Guarnieri. Josh Lee plays the viola da gamba with a fullness not usually associated with this delicate instrument. John Leonti doubles with flexibility on guitar and theorbo. Charles Sherman provides solidly continuous support on the continuo with a double manual harpsichord.

The five musicians are, in a word, superb.

Joining Musica Pacifica, the Canadian soprano Dominique Labelle (www.domiquelabelle.com) is impressively featured in three cantatas that provide many of the album’s delights. She is first heard in Guardati, o core, a short cantata by the Italian composer, singer, priest and diplomat Agostino Steffani. Labelle sings it very beautifully, with a sure command of the Italian, paying close attention to the subtleties of the text, a bittersweet commentary on the joys and pains of love.

Like other musicians born in Italy long before the unification of that country, Giuseppe Sammartini had to journey abroad to find fame and fortune in 18th century Europe. Settling in England, Sammartini wrote extensively for his primary instrument, the oboe as well as for other woodwind instruments. In his Sonata in B Minor for two instruments, Sammartini uses a free-wheeling four-movement format replete with dance rhythms. The ensemble’s Judith Linsenberg and Elizabeth Blumenstock use their recorder and violin respectively to bring to life the charming composition.

In Handel’s early solo cantata for alto, Mi palpita il cor, Dominique Labelle dives flawlessly into the vocal hurdles of the piece, singing the pastoral text about the perils of love with a light touch that yet never skims over the surface of the composition, instead mining all along for emotional depth.

Georg Phillip Telemann’s Quartet in G Major offers the ensemble’s members countless opportunities to play to the hilt a little collection of dance pieces in the Galant style of the French High Baroque.

Rameau’s cantata Orphée features soprano Labelle in top form, singing idiomatically Rameau’s music and honoring the emotional intricacies in the French text about the legend of Orpheus.

Unlike so many baroque specialists, Labelle sings with a plumy tone, judiciously using vibrato when it best serves the music but never subjecting the listener to the disembodied tone of other early music specialists. Hers is a beautiful full lyric soprano voice and the results of her approach along with the superb accompaniment by Musica Pacifica are most satisfying.

As customary with Navona Records, the engineering is top-notch and the album’s packaging, accompanied by insightful program notes is first class.

Rafael de Acha