EVANS MIRAGEAS CASTS THE BEST

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Evans Mirageas

Evans Mirageas casts the best of the best. He must have a sizeable Rolodex, lots of sky miles, and many professional contacts all over the world. Witness what happens in the upcoming Cincinnati Opera production of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos with dramatic tenor Kyle van Schoonhoven in the killer role of Bacchus, mezzo-soprano Olivia Vote, singing the pants off the pants role of the Composer, coloratura soprano Liv Redpath dispensing high E’s and F’s by the dozen, and the Mexican baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco summersaulting his way as Harlequin. These are all four red-hot talents, they  are young, good looking, and they are making their mark as singers-to- watch.

Getting ready for the opening of the Cincinnati Opera’s 99th season, which kicks off next week with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, I am looking at the names of the singers starring in Mozart’s masterpiece and of those featured in the upcoming Romeo et Juliette, and in The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess just around the corner… Again I am again reminded of what an uncanny knack Evans Mirageas has for discovering new talent, and for tapping into wonderful veteran artists.

The Cincinnati Opera’s Artistic Director has pleased quite a few other opera fans of my acquaintance again and again by bringing back to Cincinnati seasoned artists the likes of fast rising bass Morris Robinson and the silvery voiced soprano Nicole Cabell, nurturing them into Cincinnati favorites. That process takes time – just ask Robinson, who began singing here a few years ago as the Watchman keeping time for Wagner’s sleeping Meistersingers. This year the booming basso stars in the title male role in Porgy and Bess.

In the recent past we have celebrated rising young talents like the wonderful lyric baritone Joseph Lattanzi, one of the leads in last year’s Fellow Travelers and now starring as Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro. In 2015, Andrea Mastroni, a young Italian bass impressed everyone within earshot in his both Cincinnati and American debut in the key role of Timur in Puccini’s Turandot. Within a year Mastroni was checking off in his calendar debuts at the MET and all over the map of Europe…

Cincinnati beats everyone to the punch time and again, as when it gave soprano Aileen Perez the starring role of Violetta in La Traviata before her warp-speed rise to international stardom at the MET and in Europe.

Evans Mirageas is also loyal to veteran artists who reside in Cincinnati. Witness his casting of the versatile bass-baritone Kenneth Shaw, a professor of voice at CCM, a busy singer, and a creative stage director, in the important part of Friar Laurence in Romeo et Juliette. Also note if you will the appearance of the multi-faceted bass-baritone Tom Hammons in the speaking role of the Majordomo in Ariadne auf Naxos. That’s a casting coup!

This mix of generations enriches the artistic product that is a hallmark of the Cincinnati Opera, something that Evans Mirageas does season after season by casting his artistic nets far and wide for his and our beloved Cincinnati Opera.

Rafael de Acha              http://www.RafaelMusicNotes,com

THE GERSHWIN’S PORGY AND BESS

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2.jpgJust as The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess was getting a green light from the Gershwin estate back in 2011 the adaptation’s authors got a short email message from one of the estate’s trustees. It had two words: BE BOLD.

Judging by this streamlined Porgy and Bess and the remainder of this season there’s no doubt that the Cincinnati Opera’s Evans Mirageas operates all of the time with that belief.

But why The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and not just Porgy and Bess?

To get a straight answer to that you’d have to go back eight years and ask Diane Paulus, the director who took Gershwin’s opera hand in hand with playwright Susan Lori-Parks, and after negotiating with the Gershwin estate took the loveable old dinosaur of a work into the 21st century, where it has been getting productions in opera houses all over the world.

What director Paulus and playwright Parks did, had no major impact on the music. It is the opera’s libretto that which got trimmed of several chunks of stage fat. Mercifully the surgery brought the show’s running time to today’s 2:30 hours.

Good news: the Cincinnati Opera has taken Gershwin’s glorious music and, in a production originally conceived by Francesca Zambello, The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess is getting what promises to be a rousing rendition on the stage of Music Hall now through July 28.

The show’s success will surely be largely due to a made in heaven cast helmed by  Talise Trevigne, a gleaming soprano and the physically and vocally monumental bass Morris Robinson.

THE GERSHWIN’S PORGY AND BESS RUNS JULY 20, 25, & 27, 2019 | 7:30 PM AND JULY 28, 2019 | 3:00 PM

Bass-baritone Stephan Loges teams up with pianist Alexander Schmalcz

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Bass-baritone Stephan Loges teams up with pianist Alexander Schmalcz

Fourteen years ago bass-baritone Stephan Loges teamed up with pianist Alexander Schmalcz to record a CD of Lieder by Schumann, Franz and Brahms simply titled with the singer’s name. Now and then the indefatigable musical enterprisers at Divine Art Records are putting their promotional derring-do behind this valuable CD all in an effort to obtain a wider listenership in America for these two artists.

Here in our shores the vocal and pianistic art of the Lied has fallen by the wayside outside the hallowed halls of Academia, and, along with its practice, we have witnessed the gradual disappearance of an audience willing to sit through an hour plus worth of Schumann and Brahms and Schubert. Wolf? Strauss Lieder? Both are a stretch for most American concertgoers, sorry to say. So it is with grateful thanks that I receive this musical gift from our friends at Divine Art.

Stephan Loges must have been in his twenties when this album was recorded. Ever since he has been enjoying a nice European career focused primarily on recital and oratorio work, with occasional forays into opera, singing the lyrical area of the bass-baritone Fach, one that encompasses roles as diverse as Papageno, Golaud, Wolfram and the Sprecher (in The Magic Flute).

But in the realm of Lieder singing there is no rigid dividing of voices into categories. You sing Lieder you sing it all. Welcome, then, this capable artist who takes on the chameleonic demands of Schumann’s Dichterliebe, follows them with six songs by the sadly neglected Robert Franz, and follows them with seven songs from Brahms opus 63, opus 86, and a grouping of four from opus 49.

Throughout the hour-long recital, greatly helped by his superbly capable partner, Alexander Schmalcz, Loges delivers a musically rich performance highlighted by flawless diction, impeccable musicianship, elegant vocalism, and pliant idiomatic musicality, with never a moment of the sort of self-indulgent vocal grandstanding of which opera singers moonlighting as recitalists are frequently guilty.

Loge’s pliant and burnished voice is eminently suited to this repertory. He does not show off money notes, He simply delivers high and middle and low as required by the music, with no hesitancy and no ego. That sort of vocal sound coupled to the pianistic brilliance of Schmalcz is all this listener asks for and this CD delivers from start to finish.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

AN OUTSTANDING ELGAR ANTHOLOGY

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By the time Edward Elgar – make that Sir Edward Elgar, if you please – passed on to a better life in Mt. Parnassus, the 20th century in all its disturbing restlessness raged on and the arts reflected the tenor of the times in the visual arts, literature and music.

Sir Edward’s career as a composer had seen quieter days in which the English master could luxuriate in his brand of post-Romanticism. Ravel and Debussy had all but reinvented harmony, Strauss reigned supreme on the operatic and symphonic stages, and Schoenberg and the other Dodecaphonists, and Stravinsky had disassembled any remaining notions of melody as understood by the generation of concertgoers who still attended the evenings of music-making at Carnegie Hall in the 1940’s, the decade during which all three of the works included in this SOMM/Ariadne 5005 Elgar anthology were recorded.

Arturo Toscanini’s podium was with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, and his magisterial command of his forces comes through in an elegantly re-mastered – thanks to Leni Spahr – 1949 recording of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The 25-minute, fifteen-part opus 36 is a fully-mature work which to this day continues to occupy a slot in many a symphonic concert program. The tenth variation, labeled Nimrod after the biblical hunter is slightly longer and better known than all, but the finale, with its return of Elgar’s noble melody a thing to be treasured.

The Italian Maestro, known for his often eccentrically quick tempi, here takes things easy, pacing the NBC musicians with elegiac gravity throughout. Even in the brisk tempi of the finale, the third, fourth, fifth, eighth, twelfth, and eleventh variations, the latter utterly charming in its scherzo mood, the speed never goes into hyper-drive. The attacks are razor-sharp throughout – a Toscanini signature, and the balance always even to a fault.

Sir John Barbirolli succeeded Toscanini at the helm of the New York Philharmonic from 1936 to 1943 before returning to England after the war to lead the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester. In the 1940 live Carnegie Hall recording featured in this album, he has next to him no less than Igor Piatigorsky, who sounding for the world like the master cellist he was delivers a profoundly heartfelt Elgar Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85.

The work was written in 1919, a few months after the end of the Great War, and its dialogue between a lamenting, quivering cello and the orchestra that seems to answer the soloist’s phrases with blunt responses is riveting. The work’s four movements follow each other without a break and with an unusually unorthodox mix of unity of mood and contrasting tempi, as if to signify that the traditional four-movement structure of concertos is here subservient to the composer’s artistic urge to express his soulful lament for the war’s dead.

The concerto, now a de-rigueur staple of the cellist’s repertoire is not at all about technical fireworks but about making the cello sing, and Piatigorsky reminds us of what a superb musician he was with his patrician singing musicality.

The Symphonic Study in C minor, Op. 68 shows Elgar in a lighter mood. The composition, subtitled Falstaff is a six movement series of episodes depicting the adventures of Sir John Falstaff, and leading to his repudiation by Hal, now King Henry, and the Fat Man’s descent to an ignominiously sad end.

Elgar evidences his mastery of orchestration, assigning to the bassoon the personality of the weight-challenged Sir John. Falstaff’s proclivity for trouble-making for himself and for creating trouble for others is depicted in the quicksilver tempo and tonal changes. The NBC musicians show their mettle, with notably nimble playing by the woodwinds.

For collectors of recordings of historical interest this offering by SOMM/Ariadne is a must-have.

Rafael de Acha            http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

DON’T TALK AND PASS THE POPCORN

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Nobody I know who is still alive remembers the days when the movies were silent and movie houses had a pianist on staff to bang away on an upright musical accompaniments to silent flicks featuring the grainy images of Rudolph Valentino and Theda Bara mutely emoting on the flickering screen.

After Al Jolson uttered “Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” that being the first spoken line ever heard on a Hollywood film, everything changed and composers of all stripes were able to find gainful employment writing scores for the movies.

European Jewish composers fled Germany one step ahead of Nazi thugs and settled in sunny California, among them Erich Korngold and Max Steiner. Younger generations followed – Jerome Moross, a standout with his quintessentially American score for The Big Country, with melodies as vast and sweeping as the landscape Gregory Peck encountered in the 1958 film about Easterners in the West.

And who can ever forget sitting in a darkened theater and being transported to antebellum Georgia for Gone with the Wind with the help of Max Steiner’s Tara’s Theme or watching Errol Flynn capering around Merry Olde England as Robin Hood to the accompaniment of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s hyper-energetic March from The adventures of Robin Hood.

Of more rent vintage, the place of honor is unarguably occupied by John Williams, represented here by snippets from his iconic Star Wars, The Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

William Walton is respectfully included in the CD with his Henry V score and the lesser known 1942 biopic The First of the Few.

Sergei Prokofiev’s big-bones score for Sergei Einsenstein’s classic Alexander Nevsky is included here, along with samples of film music by Francis Lai (Love Story), Ron Goodwin (Squadron), and the Adagio from Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Spartacus, used in Mayerling, an obscure 1968 film.

Film music must by necessity be subservient to the medium for which it is written. It should be emotionally charged or energetic or both but never ever call attention to itself. All the compositions featured in this fun-filled album fulfill those simple requirements.

For one to sit down to listen to this nifty anthology just released by Ariadne (5006) via SOMM Recordings all preconceived notions must be abandoned: this is guilty-pleasure, middle-brow music in dressy wear, given lush symphonic renderings by the splendid Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra, Iain Sutherland at the helm.

Is this concert music? Not really. Is it good music? You bet!

Whether you saw the movie or didn’t but read the book or are too young to have seen most of these films or don’t care, I do. So please don’t talk and pass the popcorn.

Rafael de Acha http://www.www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Mozart’s “German Opera”

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Cmajor/Unitel jointly recorded last August the Salzburg Festival production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Naxos has just released it for the American market.

The results are pleasing, starting with a cast that features both internationally-known singers and up and coming ones. The production is inventive, the playing by the Vienna Philharmonic impeccable, and the conducting by Constantinos Carydis elegant and flexible.

In the Salzburg production director Lydia Steier begins the opera in an early 20th century Austrian household in which marital trouble bubbles up under the seemingly placid surface of a colorless middle-class world. Mother (soprano Albina Shagimuratova) has anger issues that moments later become if not logical at least understandable when she returns as the Queen of the Night.

The family has three well-behaved boys (three enchanting and unnamed young singers from the Vienna Boys Choir) who are for no apparent reason sent to bed early, and who are then used by the director as the Three Spirits that accompany Tamino (tenor Mauro Peter) in the company of Papageno (baritone Adam Plachetka) in a quest to find and liberate Pamina (soprano Christiane Karg), presumably a princess, but here costumed as a circus performer, from captivity by Sarastro (bass Matthias Goerne), who has put the goulish Monostatos (tenor Michael Porter) in charge of her custody.

Let us not forget the very randy and funny Three Ladies (Ilse Eerens, Paula Murrihy, and Genevieve King) and the Speaker (bass Tareq Nazmi) costumed here as a Groucho Marx type, cigar and all. If you are beginning to wonder what happened to the original middle-class home of the opening scene, you are not alone.

In a brash mixing of metaphors, the director transports us into a mad, mad world of acrobats, animal tamers, clowns, freaks, and jugglers that keep things hyperactively happening visually but make not much sense as an accompaniment to the words being sung or the story being told

The employing of the respected Austrian stage actor Klaus Maria Breandauer as a warm and fuzzy Grandpa-narrator saves the production from collapsing under the weight of all the slapsticks, helium-filled balloons, midgets, fright wigs, trained bears and men on stilts, but just barely.

The music-making is much clearer and much better thought out by conductor Constantinos Carydis as a neo-Romantic opera in which ritardandi, freely-sung cadences, and quicksilver changes of tempi are all allowed to be flexibly executed and in so doing nicely fit into the musical fabric of the entire opera, remaining elegantly Classical and perfectly idiomatic.

The singing is all good, some better than good, none embarrassing, starting with the central couple of tenor Mauro Peter, an excellent Tamino, and soprano Christiane Karg, a lovely Pamina.

Baritone Adam Plachetka portrays a loveable and well-sung Papageno, the Bird Catcher, in spite of a blood-soaked apron that turns him into Papageno, the bird butcher.

Soprano Albina Shagimuratova tosses off the dreaded high F’s in both her arias without breaking a sweat.

On the other hand, bass-baritone Matthias Goerne sounds growly and out of his depth in the depths of Sarastro’s low-lying music.

Mozart’s “German Opera” (his words on paper) is tricky to stage, its tone vacillating between the comic and the serious. And then there are male chauvinist groaners in Schikaneder’s libretto, which no matter what the staging approach might be must be dealt with in the Me-too era. Here’s hoping for a Magic Flute to hold a candle to Ingmar Bergman’s glorious 1975 film adaptation of Mozart’s opera.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

A plea for inclusiveness

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This past season, on Sunday April 28 the program of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was as politely planned as any I have heard then and before from our big band in town. And yes, of course, the music making was wonderful. But I wish that a flight of the imagination would point guest artists appearing in ours and in other American orchestras and our music directors in the direction of the treasure trove of the music of Falla, Granados, Albeniz, Turina, Montsalvatge, Mompou, and Rodrigo, to name but a handful of great Spanish composers from whose compositions some unpredictable programming choices could be made.

The concert opened with Claude Debussy’s Ibéria, a tryptich of orchestral pieces evocative of Spain and its music. Par les rues et par les chemins (“Through the streets and roads”), Les parfums de la nuit (“The perfumes of the night”) and Le matin d’un jour de fête (“The morning of a holiday”) depict in Debussy’s very French terms his impressions of a Spain of his very Gallic imagination.

The unresolved progressions that make up so much of Debussy’s harmonic language, the signature evanescent strains of melody that capriciously come and go, and, of course, the easily mimicked Moorish flavor of so much of the music of Spain are all there, but all put to work in a methodical, respectful manner that belies its provenance as Paris, not Seville. This is music that’s elegant, compositionally comme il faut, but lacking a true Iberian DNA.

In between, a new work for cello and orchestra by composer-conductor Mathias Pintscher was played by Alisa Wilerstein. Un Despertar (An Awakening) is based on a poem by the late Mexican poet Octavio Paz.

In the second half the CSO gave Maurice Ravel’s Alborada del Gracioso to give a taste of real Spanish musical flavor. First the title: Alborada at its basic meaning: dawn, sunrise…and, in this case, the music of sunrise. The Gracioso is a buffoonish character from the theatre of the Spanish Golden Age that appears in the comedies of Cervantes, Lope and Calderon.

Here we have then a mini-tone poem – one of three in the composer’s Mirroirs in which he depicts a dreamlike scene that perhaps involves more than just the clownish Gracioso.
Ravel, please note, is not altogether a French composer, in spite of his residency and passport, but a pan-European composer who, unlike others like Rimsky-Korsakoff and Debussy and Bizet who depicted in some of their music a storybook sanitized Spain, instead wrote gutsy, roof-raising, sun-drenched, toe tapping, earthy music with the soul of Iberia imbuing every bar of his music. Ravel meant to not only evoke but celebrate the Spain of his Basque ancestors with this music.

It is my fervent wish that the CSO should begin to expand its horizons beyond the repertoire in which it, along with so many other American symphony orchestras seems to be stuck. Let us hear some more music from outside the bread and butter box of European 19th and early 20th century’s bearded men. Let us begin to see more female and Black and Latino-Hispanic and Asian and Brazilian guest conductors up on the podium. Let us hear some more soloists of color. Add more women and Blacks and Hispanics and Asians to the rank and file of the players. Expand your Rolodex. Let us hear more music from the far reaches of the world. Let us hear more music written in the immediate no the distant past. Let us hear more music composed outside Germany, Austria, France, England and Russia. Let us have an orchestra that looks and sounds not like some of us but like all of us.

Rafael de Acha    http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

VENICE IN MEXICO

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VENICE IN MEXICO

Stephen Sutton’s ever eclectic divine art label provided us with both the catchy title for this blog post and the pleasurable music contained in a new release of Baroque music by Vivaldi and Facco.

Facco, did I say?

Yes, I too had never heard of this most unfairly neglected of composers. Giacomo Facco was born in 1676 in the Most Serene Republic of Venice, the warmongering in-spite-of-its-title City State where composers like Vivaldi, this CD’s other and better known featured composer made their careers count for something.

But Facco chose to cast his lot farther to the South and west of the City on the Lagoon and off to Madrid he went at age 24, where he fell in the good graces of the Royal Family and became Music Master to the household of the Infante and eventually a member of the King’s household.

By a cruel twist of fate, all but a handful of the dozens of compositions penned by Facco were lost in a fire in the Royal Palace. Then, by another twist of fate – a beneficial one this time around – a set of twelve of his concerti, entitled Pensieri Adriarmonici ended up in – of all places – a nunnery in Mexico DC.

By a series of fortuitous events, Facco’s work came into the care of Mexican musicologist and maestro Miguel Lawrence, who brought together a group of the country’s finest Early Music players to record two of Facco’s and six of Vivaldi’s concerti – two of them with the exotic Mexican psaltery deputizing for the Baroque guitar for which it would have been written, and another for sopranino recorder.

The fine dozen players of the Mexican Baroque Orchestra, conducted by Miguel Lawrence, do lovely work on all eight of the concerti, featuring throughout the excellent violinist Manuel Zoghi, Daniel Armas playing with brilliance the intriguing Mexican psaltery, and Maestro Lawrence playing the sopranino recorder with panache and elegance. The obligatory Baroque continuo is strongly provided by Juan J. Puente on the guitarrón mexicano. Marieta Lazarova, Jared Ahedo, Rodrigo Martinez, Caleb Ahedo, Stanislav Ouchinsky, Connie Ruiz, and Marco Estrada are the marvelously musical members of the string section.

The CD is elegantly packaged and impeccably engineered by Pedro Wood.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Sheer Listening Joy.

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Leave it to DELOS to keep surprising us with music off the beaten path! This time the surprise is titled PIANO MUSIC OF JOHN KNOWLES PAINE (DE 3551).

The music is by a lesser known – dare I say neglected? – American composer born at a time when America was trying to figure out just what that name meant, let alone what Classical music meant. Payne, however discouraging it might have been to get his contemporaries to tolerate let alone understand what he was up to, forged ahead, first studying music with his parents – owners of a music store in Portland, Maine. From then, Payne became a pupil of Hermann Kotzchmar, a German master who encouraged the Parents of the young prodigy to allow their son to further pursue his studies in Germany.

After returning to the States in 1861, Paine, aged 22, settled in Boston, where his European training served him well as he became a respected organist, a frequent performer of his own music in the salons of Beacon Hill, a guest conductor of the BSO, and eventually the creator of the music curriculum at Harvard University, where he taught for the rest of his life.

Much like the other American music pioneers – Edward MacDowell, Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, George Chadwick and Horatio Parker – who came to be known along with him as The Boston Six, Paine was prolific, gifted, and hard working, writing uncomplicatedly accessible music that was then and continues now to be delightfully melodic. By 1906, the final year of his life, Paine must have heard the name of Schoenberg or even actually heard the music of his 1898 Transfigured Night, a composition that was breaking ground in the direction of atonality. In Paris Debussy had vastly redefined harmony with his Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. But Paine and his American pioneer friends soldiered on marching to the beat of their own personal drums tonally and melodically, as we can hear in this collection of miniatures dating back to the 1870’s.

This is by and large music written heart-on-sleeve, of a time where cares where about the honestly essential, music in which there is no agenda, no manifesto, no extra-musical baggage.

In this delightful collection pianist Christopher Atzinger plays with utmost elegance, brio when needed, gravitas when appropriate, and without a shred of condescension, there are romances, sketches, preludes, joyful ditties, even a fugue, and sad pièces d’occasion. Atzinger takes them on with bravura at his fingertips through all 65 minutes of this neatly engineered and packaged CD providing sheer listening joy.

Rafael de Acha       http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

A perfect Romeo and Juliet

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Much like its operatic cousin Faust, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette began its initially humble stage life in 1859 at the Opéra-Comique, only to move fifteen years later to the opulent Paris Opéra, where the huge stage and technical equipment allowed for the big bones production that R&J needs and that it  is now receiving on the stage of Cincinnati’s Music Hall.

With the Cincinnati Opera chorus,the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the pit, Ramon Tebar as its conductor, great production values, and a cast of a dozen principals, this Gounod does not stint on size.

But size is not the end all in this opera, which is in fact structured as a series of intimate encounters between two characters: Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet. Other characters play crucial roles in the story: the well-meaning Friar Laurent, the all too fatherly Lord Capulet, and the hot-headed Tybalt. But ultimately as told by Gounod and his librettists this is the story of two ill-fated lovers.

Making one of the best Cincinnati Opera debuts in recent memory tenor Matthew White combined in the part of Romeo vocal elegance, youthful looks, virility, and the much needed but elusive French style that is so rare to find these days. He delivered his aria Ah! lève-toi, soleil! as well as I have heard it from many tenors in years of opera-going, and he sang passionately in his duets with his Juliet.

The ever lovely Nicole Cabell returned to Cincinnati to prove that she has the perfect voice and looks for Juliet, singing her first act waltz with graceful lyricism, and acting convincingly as a giddy girl in love with love. Her dramatic and vocal journey from virginal maiden to tragic heroine within the span of the opera’s three hours was riveting.

The supporting roles in the Cincinnati production are exceptionally well sung and acted by a mix of veteran singers and newcomers, with bass-baritone Kenneth Shaw mixing good-natured bonhomie and authority as a standout Friar Laurent, singing sonorously throughout the evening.

Baritone Hadleigh Adams is a charming Mercutio, delivering a brilliantly sung Queen Mab ballad and fencing like a champion. Thomas Dreeze, an appropriately pompous Lord Capulet, colorfully sang his Allons jeunes gens to the guests at the Capulet ball. Tenor Piotr Buszewski a strong Tybalt, acted convincingly, singing well, and sporting terrific swordsmanship in the fight scene, which  was nicely staged by Gina Cerimele Mechley.

Baritone Vernon Hartman was a commanding Duke of Verona, and mezzo-soprano Reilly Nelson an enchanting Stephano. Catherine Keen (Gertrude), Phillip Bullock (Gregorio), Darian Clonts (Benvolio), and Simon Barrad (Count Paris) served their roles to perfection.

Ramon Tebar conducted the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with sensitivity and authority, ever supportive of the singers and alert to the stage, eliciting superb playing from his musicians. The production exudes elegance in every department, from Mathew Ozawa’s stage direction to William Boles’ marvelous sets to Sara Bahr’s perfect costumes to James Geier’s wigs and Thomas C. Hase’s dappled lighting. Henri Venanzi obtained great work from his well-prepared chorus

This performance significantly marked to the day the 90th anniversary of the Cincinnati Opera. With a perfectly cast and staged Romeo and Juliet, Evans Mirageas‘ Cincinnati Opera once more reasserts itself as one of the top companies in North America.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Romeo and Juliet Music Hall. Cincinnati, Ohio. Music by Charles Gounod Libretto by Barbier and Carré

Cast:

Romeo Matthew White
Juliet Nicole Cabell
Mercutio Hadleigh Adams
Friar Laurent Kenneth Shaw
Count Capulet Thomas Dreeze
Tybalt Piotr Buszewski
Duke of Verona Vernon Hartman
Stephano Reilly Nelson
Gertrude Catherine Keen
Gregorio Phillip Bullock
Benvolio Darian Clonts                                                                                                                        Count Paris Simon Barrad

Production

Stage Director Matthew Ozawa
Scenic Designer William Boles
Costume Designer Sarah Bahr
Lighting Designer Thomas C. Hase
Wig & Make-up Designer James Geier
Chorus Master Henri Venanzi
Choreographer Oğulcan Borova
Fight Director Gina Cerimele Mechley
A co-production of Minnesota Opera and Cincinnati Opera. Scenery and costumes constructed by Minnesota Opera and Cincinnati Opera.
ROMEO AND JULIETTE MAY BE SEEN AGAIN THIS SATURDAY, JUNE 29, AT 7:30 PM