Laura Metcalf, cello. SONO LUMINUS DSL – 92201

Accompanying pianist: Matei Varga

Engineering: Dan Merceruio and Daniel Shores

Some artists come clad in the vestments of conservatory-trained, classically-schooled, “serious” artists. For some of them to even remotely court the off-beat outer reaches of the repertory that fall outside the canonic Bach to Brahms box would be anathema. Others seek instead those dusty little corners of the unexplored realms of the repertory, where they are likely to discover finds that otherwise go unnoticed by the rank and file of the classical music establishment.

Laura Metcalf is one of those oddballs that rock the boat and make changes happen as they bring concert music kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Look at her short bio within the liner notes of First Day, her Sono Luminus debut album and you will see all of the right bullet points: Concert Artists Guild winner, Zankel Hall, Library of Congress, Lincoln Center. But then look further and listen to the contents of this terrific album and you will surely join us in saluting Laura Metcalf as a visionary maverick and a major talent to be welcomed.

She plays Jose Bragato’s Graciela y Buenos Aires with the firm attack and the fierce double-dotted rhythms of someone born steps from the docks of the River Plate. On track 4 of the CD she tackles Alberto Ginastera’s tricky Pampena No.2, op. 21 and transports us to the wide open spaces of Patagonia, playing with expansive bravura.

She brings to the table both Bohuslav Martinu’s Variation on a Slovakian Theme and George Enescu’s quintessentially Rumanian Sonata in F Minor, both interspersed with pieces by contemporaries Caleb Burnhans, whose Phantasie is delightful, and Dan Visconti, whose Hard-Knock Stomp is serious rhythmic fun.

She travels from Marin Marais’ 17th Century, elegantly playing his Variations on La Follia and then shares an emotionally-charged piece by Francis Poulenc, Les Chemins de l’amour, inflecting into the elegantly Gallic melody her very intimately personal touch,  plaintively singing and playing and bringing her debut album to a poignant close.

Rumanian pianist, Matei Varga contributes greatly to the success of the enterprise, switching musical hats from Baroque to 20th century to you name it with assuredness and energy.

The engineering is signature Sono Luminus, up-closely miked, straightforward, un-embellished by post-production smoke and mirrors. The packaging is nice, with a pull-out sheet with bios and unpretentious commentary.

This CD is one for loving replaying. I will.

Rafael de Acha




Parma Recordings/Navona Records. YVES RAMETTE IN TIMES OF TORMENT

CHAMBER WORKS 1941-1944. Vit Muzik, violin; Carmine Miranda, cello; Karolina Rojahs, piano; Erik van Heyningen, baritone; Igor Kopt, violin; Dominika Muzikova, viola; Petr Nouzovsky, cello; Vanessa Holroyd, flute; Nancy Russo, harp; Jonathan Roberts, piano; Shaw Pong Liu, violin; Emily Dahl, viola; Leo Eguchi, cello.

String Quartet, op. 20; 3 Poems of Francis Carco; Violin Sonata, no. 1, op. 18; Violin Sonata, no. 2, op. 23; Cello Sonata.

Engineers: Ales Dvorak (op. 20); John Weston (remaining tracks). All recording sessions: 2015.

French composer Yves Ramette ( lived during and survived the Nazi occupation of his beloved Paris, where he remained living and composing, including at least one of the works in this album.

His earlier String Quartet, op. 20 is an uninterrupted work, where movements blend seamlessly one into the other. The composition is at its core a post- Romantic one, with occasional touches of dissonance now here now there. It is an inviting entry into the world of this lesser known artist, beautifully played by Vit Muzik, Igor Kopyt, Dominika Muzikova, and Petr Nouzovsky.

The short cycle of three poems by the French fiction writer and poet Francis Carco, consists of the minimalist Madrigal, the sober Amour, and the final Berceuse. Carco’s unpredictable harmonies underpin in the first and third songs a cantabile vocal line, sensitively handled by baritone Erik van Heyningen in flawless French. The second of the songs, Amour juxtaposes a spoken text over the plain accompaniment.

Ramette’s violin sonatas nos. 1, op. 18 and 2, op. 23 are fiercely brought to life by Vit Muzik and Karolina Rojahs. Both works are early post-Romantic ones, abundant with delicacy and Gallic restraint. Karolina Rojahs provides sterling support on the piano.

The engineering by Ales Dvorak (op. 20) and John Weston (remaining tracks) is  just what we have come to expect from Navona Records and Parma Recordings: uncompromisingly accurate throughout and unforgiving of even the smallest glitch.

The album is energetically brought to a close by cellist Carmine Miranda’s impassioned playing of Ramette’s Cello Sonata. Structured in three movements (Slow/Calm/Slow), the work demands the sort of incisive musicality that the young Venezuelan-American cellist unfailingly brings to his playing of this composition.

A heartfelt cri de coeur by a formidable though lesser known composer, this CD is one to treasure.

Rafael de Acha










Players of new and innovative music


Navona Records ( and its remarkable commitment to new music continues with the release of Blurred Boundaries, a collection of compositions, several influenced by non-western musical traditions and all six impressively played by the protean Apollo Chamber Players (

The project, enhanced by its neat packaging and the limpid engineering of Navona Records’ team of engineers, Ryan Edwards and Shannon Smith, encompasses music dating from the turn of the 20th century to works of recent vintage.

The results are impressive, due in no small measure to the idiomatic, honest, bold and straightforward playing of the members of Apollo Chamber Players: violinists Matthew J. Detrick and Anabel Ramirez, violist Whitney Bullock, cellist Matthew Dudzik and their guest artists, Ismail Lumanovski, clarinet; Timothy Pitts, bass, and percussionist Matthew McClung.

Apollo Chamber Players’ multi-year commissioning project 20X2020, supported in part by the C. Howard Pieper Foundation made possible the creation of Libby Larsen’s Sorrow Song and Jubilee, Erberk Eryilmaz’s Thracian Airs of Besime Sultan, and Marty Regan’s Splash of Indigo.

The album opens with Sorrow Song and Jubilee, a six-minute, single movement, homage to Antonin Dvorak and Henry Thacker Burleigh by the American composer Libby Larsen. In it we hear Swing Low, Sweet Chariot replicated in a deconstructed manner, as if the melody, mostly assigned to the cello, were struggling to emerge through a densely textured counterpoint played by the violins and viola, only to emerge triumphant half-way through the piece in a Czech dance rhythm.

In each and every one of tracks 2 through 8 of the CD, the members of the string quartet mine for and find musical gold in the songs of rural America, as with Henry Thacker Burleigh’s 1901 Plantation Melodies Old and New introducing us to two lesser known pieces: Negro Lullaby and An Ante-Bellum Sermon.

Florence Beatrice Price’s 1951 Five Folk Songs in Counterpoint is alternatively moving (Calvary, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot), lively (Clementine, Shortnin’ Bread) and melancholy (Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes) and thoroughly enchanting in its unencumbered versions of familiar tunes long part of our musical DNA. The Apollo musicians play with a down-to-earth approach redolent of family evenings of music-making in the front porch of folks up in the Kentucky hills.

Erberk Eryilmaz’s Thracian Airs of Besime Sultan takes the listener into unfamiliar territory, with the string quartet now augmented by a bass, a clarinet and percussion that transform the sound of the ensemble into something altogether exotic and exhilarating, what with the composer and the musicians flirting with flatted intervals, poly-rhythms and woodwind riffs that would not be out of place in a Turkish wedding celebration.

Hajime Komatsu’s Four Japanese Folk Songs is eminently tonal, largely based on pentatonic scales and ranging from dance-like in Yagibushi to song-like in Naribu Oshioi Uta to playful in Otemoyan and exultant in the final Aizu Bandaisari.

Marty Regan’s Splash of Indigo is a musical depiction of the visual aspects of the ancient Japanese craft of Indigo design and dyeing. Replicating in a manner that blends Debussy-like gestures with Japanese scales, the nearly-twelve minute one-movement composition is unpredictable, rhapsodic, quiet and still to the point of stasis at times, precipitated and agitated at others, and altogether intriguingly original.

With this album, the Apollo Chamber Players make their mark as not only an ensemble of quality but as loyal supporters and players of new and innovative music. Kudos to them.

Rafael de Acha



Music for All Seasons Fourth Anniversary Season: 2016-2017

October 2, 2016   Sins of Old Age

Kayleigh Decker, mezzo-soprano Alan Palacios Chan, tenor Jesse Leong, piano

Sara Kim, cello Jennifer Roig, violin  Suzanne Bona, flute

Music of Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Meyerbeer, Chopin


December 4, 2016 Happy Holidays with Kimberly Daniel and Friends



February 12, 2017 Shareese Arnold, Soprano Four-Way String Quartet

Wagner Wesendonck Lieder Strauss Four Last Songs
Schoenberg Brettl Songs
Haydn String Quartet, Op. 76, No. 3, “Emperor”
Co-presented with Wagner Society of Cincinnati

April 23, 2017 Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare!




Fete the Bard’s 401st Birthday with
Caitlin Gotimer, soprano Paulina Villareal, mezzo-soprano
Pedro Arroyo, tenor Sam Martin, piano

Music inspired by Shakespeare by Verdi, Gounod, Bellini, Rossini, Arne

At Historic Peterloon: 8605 Hopewell Road, Indian Hill 45242

Tickets: $30 Four-concert passes $100

Po Box 43172 Cincinnati, OH 45243



Elegant playing by chamber trio

Trio Celeste is a California-based ensemble. In residence at UCLA-Irvine, the trio is made up of violinist Iryna Krechkovsky, cellist Ross Gasworth and pianist Kevin Kwan Loucks. Their 2016 release for Navona Records evidences their elegant playing and imaginative exploration of the repertoire for chamber trio.

The CD has Beethoven’s Piano Trio in G Major, Op 1, No. 2, an early work that seems to reluctantly say farewell to the 18th century even as it moves assuredly into the 1800’s with unabashed sentiment, playfulness and Romantic sweep. The Trio Celeste plays this early Beethoven gem with delicacy and bravura, yet never imposing interpretive excesses on the music.

The next ten tracks of the CD are devoted to Constellations: Variations on a Theme by Beethoven. Commissioned by the trio from ten living composers, the collection of pieces consists of ten variations on the second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Trio in G Major, Op 1, No. 2, by Eugene Drucker, Mike Block, Eric Guinivan, Peter Erskine, Paul Dooley, Fred Hersch, Samuel Adler, Jim Scully, Christina Spinei and Pierre Jalbert. The ten miniatures range in length from barely over one minute to slightly over two, and vary in approach from the serious to the whimsical and from the decidedly atonal to the comfortably melodic. It is an altogether bold bit of programming and an eminently successful one.

The Dvorak Dumky Trio takes the lion’s share of the CD’s tracks. A six-movement composition, the piece opens with a haunting Lento redolent of Moravian folk melodies, that soon opens up into a Gypsy-inflected Allegro that gives violinist Krechkovsky an opportunity to display both her technique and the unique sound of her 1689 “Baumgartner” Stradivarius

In the second movement and again later, cellist Ross Gasworth plays with a deep singing tone just perfect for the melancholic moments of the piece. Dvorak structures the six movements in an unpredictable way, seamlessly moving in each one of them but for the fifth one from slow to fast.

Pianist Loucks holds his own in this sterling company, staying in the background when mere accompanying is needed, then moving into prominence at the right moments.

The engineering by Jesse Lewis and Kyle Pyke is impeccable, allowing the trio to stay up front and present throughout with a clean, unadorned sound. The packaging is simple and tasteful, including brief and pertinent notes.

The good people at Navona Records ( continue to make our lives richer with new releases that keep us all busy, pleasantly surprised and musically satisfied.

Trio Celeste ( – Navona Records, 2016.

Beethoven – Piano Trio in G Major, Op 1, No. 2. Constellations: Variations on a Theme by Beethoven – music by Eugene Drucker, Mike Block, Eric Guinivan, Peter Erskine, Paul Dooley, Fred Hersch, Samuel Adler, Jim Scully, Christina Spinei and Pierre Jalbert. Antonín Dvořák– Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor, Op. 90, “Dumky.” Engineers: Jesse Lewis and Kyle Pyke.







Last week we went up to NYC, with exactly three days to see shows, catch up with old friends, visit at least one museum exhibit and enjoy some of the things NYC has to offer, among those the impressive annual showcase of musical theatre triple-threats that CCM presents for casting agents.


Shuffle Along

We went primarily to see Joshua Henry, a former student of my wife’s. George C. Wolfe directs, Savion Glover choreographs, the design team has Santo Loquasto (set), Anne Roth (costumes) and Jules Fisher (lighting). The production fills up the stage of the intimate Music Box Theatre, and the performances are just what we expected from Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Brandon Victor Dixon and Joshua Henry.

Still in previews, this show is undergoing some major changes, so that it would be unfair to give it any kind of review. My gut feeling is that, once they are done with the changes and once they settle into a run, the star power of the cast and the terrific music will carry the show. Let’s wait and see.


An American in Paris

In spite of the bad manners of three women who sat in front of us, eating a variety of noisy snacks they had purchased in the lobby of the Palace Theatre, this turned out to be a great theatrical experience. The production is brilliantly directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, the set and costumes by Bob Crowley manage to erase memories of the 1951 film, and the cast features an exceptional quartet of dancers capable of more than doing justice to George and Ira Gershwin’s music and lyrics: Leanne Cope, Brandon Uranowitz, Garen Scribner and Max von Esen.


Marilyn Maye

Sunday April 11 was her 88th birthday, and her show felt like a party to which the sizeable audience had been invited to honor a friend. At all times Ms. Maye was fully committed to delivering the message of the lyrics of the songs she sang, from Sondheim’s survival anthem, I’m Still Here to a medley of Johnny Mercer ballads to a wry Guess Who I Saw Today.

I’m providing the You Tube link to Marilyn Maye’s I Love Being Here With You, which she used to open her cabaret show at Feinstein’s 54 Below, an intimate cabaret spot on West 54th Street.  This grand lady of cabaret will be back in May at 54 Below. If you have a chance to catch her act, may I suggest you go to and book your reservations now, as her shows always sell out…

Other things

We had two great brunches while in NYC. At 75 West 68th, just off Columbus Avenue and a short walk from Lincoln Center, Boite en Bois is one of our favorite places to eat when in NYC. The other is Lincoln restaurant, right next to Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center.

At the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, Beauty is their Triennial exhibit. Featuring innovative work by a number of important designers from around the world, the show will be on view through August. Definitely worth a visit, both for the exhibit and for the pleasure of looking at the former Carnegie Mansion, where it is held…




Dream Vapors, selected works for orchestra is composer Rain Worthington’s first full-length solo CD on Navona Records (Navona 6025).

The neatly-packaged CD, complete with press quotes and biographical information on the composer, features seven orchestral pieces ranging in length from little over six minutes to slightly longer than ten.

Evocatively titled, all seven of the compositions demand careful listening, while allowing one’s imagination to evoke images that intensely reflect what the music says.

The composer’s extensive website ( includes read-only digital versions of the scores for several of the compositions included in the CD, something that immensely helps the understanding of her intentions and skills, including her ability to orchestrate both for large and chamber ensembles.

The titles of these compositions, even prior to listening give one an entry into the mind and sensibilities of Ms. Worthington. Shredding Glass, is the earliest piece in the CD, dating back to 2004.

As beautifully played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the composition effectively elicits eerie sonorities from the woodwinds at their highest register in contrast with rumbling statements from  the basses and the timpani.

Rain Worthington offers no clues as to any of her compositional intentions, bathing all seven of these pieces in mysterious moods that range from the meditative and contemplative, as is the case with Reversing Mirrors in the Quiet to the wistful melancholy of Within a Dance, a Tone Poem of Love and the stillness of Yet Still Night, a Nocturne for Orchestra – these last two the only compositions to which she affixes a subtitle and a musical form name (tone poem, nocturne.)

The composer’s creations are inexhaustibly inventive, never at a loss for a surprising harmonic solution or a novel gesture in orchestration. At times one hears the influence of world music in moments of percussion, at other times a given turn of phrase in melody is deliberately repeated for emphasis, mining a bit the world of minimalism. But overall this is the work of an eclectic, sui-generis musical artist who walks to the beat of her own romantic heart and outside the parameters of contemporary music.

The various orchestras and conductors include the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra (Petr Vronsky, conductor), the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra (Ovidiu Martinescu, conductor) and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (Robert Ian Winstin, conductor). All three are seasoned European ensembles equally at home in the Romanticism of the great Central European and Russian masters and in 21st century music. The conducting is first-rate and the fidelity and accuracy of the playing remarkable.

As is ever the case with Navona Records, the clarity and the integrity of the sound are faultless, all the more admirable considering that each of the seven tracks was laid down at different times in different parts of the world.

This is, to sum it up, an extraordinary sampler of the original work of an American composer fully deserving of this solo showcase.

We eagerly await more to come from Rain Worthington.

Rafael de Acha



The Cincinnati summer can bring the unpredictable in both music and weather, but for the many of us who prefer to stay put here during June, July and August, there are some very reassuring musical offerings awaiting our attendance.

The Cincinnati Opera (America’s second oldest) will celebrate its 96th anniversary in its temporary digs at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, while Music Hall undergoes renovations that we now hear will delay its reopening until 2017.

A line up of four works starts on June 16 with Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, set according to the company’s brochure, in the 1930’s and inspired by the film The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Soprano Nicole Cabell stars as Rosalinda and tenor Alek Shrader is her Alfred.

The tone of the season changes on July 7th with a new production of Fidelio, Beethoven’s one and only opera in a new production set in an unnamed country in the present.

Soprano, Christine Goerke is Leonore, the heroine of this grand masterpiece about love and liberty. Russell Thomas is her Florestan, and bass Nathan Stark is Rocco.

Later in July, Russian soprano, Evelina Dobraceva sings Tosca in a new period production. Surrounding her, tenor Marcello Giordani is Cavaradossi and baritone Gordon Hawkins is Scarpia.

Running concurrently with Tosca, Fellow Travellers, a new opera by the composer-librettist team of Gregory Spears and Greg Pierce, will feature a cast of young American singers, among them CCM alumni Joseph Lattanzi and Tanya Lieberman, and veteran baritone Vernon Hartman.

The work is set in the intrigue-ridden America of the McCarthy era.

Details on exact performance times and dates, and tickets: or 513 241 27 42.


Summermusik is the short one-word nickname for Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. The born-again organization boasts the cream of the crop of Cincinnati’s free-lance musicians, now gathered under one banner and about to get a new music director.

Each of five contenders for the position will lead an audition-concert. At the end of the season, one of the five will be invited to assume the position of permanent music director of the CCO.

Daniel Meyer will conduct the opening concert of the season on August 13: Haydn Symphony no, 85, Ravel’s piano concerto in G Major, with Joyce Yang as soloist, and Mother Goose Suite, plus yet another suite of Copland’s, Music For The Movies.

Meyer’s resume reflects his penchant for re-energizing regional orchestras all over the United States and guest-conducting in Europe.

Christopher Zimmerman has accumulated some impressive credits throughout a career that straddles Europe and America, opera and orchestral concerts. He will lead the CCO in music by Elgar, Piazzolla and Beethoven’s Symphony no, 7.

The soloist in the program will be Chinese violinist Chee-Yun, in the local premiere of the Argentine composer’s Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas.

Former CCO Assistant Conductor Sarah Ioannides takes the podium on August 27th in a program that includes Rossini, Poulenc, Milhaud’s Creation of the World and the premiere of Caribbean Rhapsody, a new work by Roberto Sierra, with saxophonist, James Carter as soloist.

In a world largely dominated by white, middle-aged men, she may have a good shot at the position of Musical Director of the CCO, given her gender, youth, and experience.

German-born Eckart Preu combines teaching, writing and community activism with his very busy conducting career, all qualities and skills that just may serve him in good stead.

He will helm the CCO in an off-beat line up of two premieres: Miguel del Aguila’s Conga-Line in Hell and Daniel Bjarnason’s FROM Bow to String, off-set by Copland’s Appalachian Spring Suite, Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1, with Joshua Roman as soloist, and Mozart’s Paris symphony.

Kelly Kuo returns to conduct the CCO on September 3, his slot at the end of the season perhaps guaranteeing that memory of his appearance will be at its most vivid by being the most recent before a decision is reached. His program is yet to be announced.

In addition to the orchestral concerts, the CCO will again present a handful of Little Afternoon Musiks and Chamber Crawls. These are informal chamber music concerts given in various eateries and watering holes around town, supervised and assembled by several of the conducting candidates as well as by members of the orchestra.

Details on exact performance times and dates, and tickets: or 513 723 1182




A music critic and friend recently made this comment to a post on

“But no one really thinks about the young artists just out of college, who are trying to get a foot in the door and launch a career. I too have been heartened by these young opera companies in our midst, and wonder how the founders and artists involved in them manage to even put food on their tables… Are we graduating too many people? “

That’s more than a couple of insightful and troubling comments with sobering questions appended to them: How does a young artist launch a career after college? How do they put food on their tables? Are we graduating too many people from our conservatories?

Spurred by my critic-friend’s comments I decided to take an informal poll with several CCM graduate students on the brink of professional careers. All of these young artists have sung or conducted with various professional organizations around town, several farther afield.

Here is a quick survey of eight immensely gifted artists and their doings what, where and when.

There is no question in my mind that each and every one of these enterprising musicians will carve out a niche in the music profession. By the same token I doubt that any one of the eight will follow a conventional route to attain their goal.  And no, I don’t believe we are graduating too many musicians from our conservatories. I believe that these conservatory products that make up my profile are the foot soldiers that are bringing music to the 21st century infusing new life into it.

Jesse Leong ( will be going to the Glimmerglass Festival for the summer of 2016, where he will be an Assistant Conductor, working on La bohème, Robert Ward’s The Crucible, and Wilde Tales, a world premiere youth opera by Laura Karpman and Kelley Rourk. The young conductor is also working on an extensive reference book entitled La bohème: A Connotative and Grammatical Translation, which he plans on publishing as an e-book in the near future. In the fall Jesse returns to CCM to work on Albert Herring, which he will conduct for CCM’s Opera d’arte.

Annalise Dwzonczyk, a lovely lyric-coloratura soprano has been hired for a full time position as a Wealth Management Coordinator in a Cincinnati banking institution. In her words, she hopes to “… still be singing as much as I can outside of business hours, of course! But this will help pay the bills for the time being.” The “bills” Annalise needs to pay for are, I assume, the staggering student loans that come inexorably due right after graduation. This burden is handled differently by opera singers, instrumentalists, conductors and musical theatre performers. In the case of the later, many of them are able to get summer employment in various large musical theatre venues around the country, where many are able to get their Equity (Actors Equity Association) membership and earn professional wages early on in their careers while still in college. But Annalise will be alright and she will continue to sing.

Mezzo-soprano, Kayleigh Decker will be making her Opera Theatre of Saint Louis debut as a Gerdine Young Artist. She will be covering the role of Peggy in the world premiere of Shalimar the Clown, which she sang in the CCM/Cincinnati Opera Opera Fusion workshop last fall. In the fall this gifted singer returns to CCM to compete her Master’s degree in Opera.

Meanwhile soprano Caitlin Gotimer is off to sing Musetta with the Crested Butte Opera Studio in Colorado, then back to CCM for one more year. I should mention that Caitlin lists in her resume a combination of operatic and musical theatre roles, and her idiomatic singing of both kinds of music exemplifies the versatility of a new generation of singers who can straddle both those worlds with assurance.

Allan Palacios Chan, a tenor already in demand as a specialist in the Rossini-Donizetti leggiero roles and in Baroque music will be in Santa Barbara, CA for his second season with Music Academy of the west, where his assignments include the role of Vašek in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride and a part in Second Nature, a new work by Matthew Aucoin, fter which he will be back at CCM completing his DMA in Voice.

After having spent several years on the coaching faculty of the International Performing Arts Institute in Bavaria, pianist-coach Sam Martin will stay stateside working at the Opera Company of Middlebury (VT) as a young artist coach. Verdi’s Macbeth, playing concerts, and coaching the young artist singers in the program, will occupy his time, after which he returns to CCM to work on his DMA and helm his brainchild, the Art Song Initiative.

Christopher Brandon Morales will be joining Cincinnati Opera again as a core chorus member in their productions of Die Fledermaus, Fidelio, and Tosca. Soon after, he will be joining Virginia Opera as an Emerging Artist covering Caspar in Der Freischütz, Timur in Turandot, and Dr. Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, all three “plums of the bass-baritone canon.

Mexican mezzo-soprano, Paulina Villareal was awarded a Mercer scholarship award to study at the Goethe Institute in Munich. She will then be in the chorus of the Cincinnati Opera productions of Fidelio, Tosca and Die Fledermaus, after which she will present a series of recitals in Mexico during the month of August. In the fall she returns to CCM to work on her DMA in voice.

The encouraging sign is that these young artists are already putting food on their table while still in college. They are starting their professional careers by virtue of enterprise, imagination and resourcefulness even while in college. They are getting their foot in the door by singing or covering a role in a new opera while the composer and creative team are in attendance and very much on the lookout for fresh talent.

They are not fully dependent on the young artist programs in which they will participate to be the career silver bullet, for there is no such thing. They are starting their own organizations, such as chamber opera groups that are springing up all over the United States led by young artists.

Opera singers lucky enough to get a chorus contract with one of the few first rank opera companies that play in the summer (such as Cincinnati’s own) can also bank some money to continue to pursue their studies at summer’s end or, if just about to graduate, start to pay off their college loans.

The German opera theaters are overpopulated by singers from every European nation, all vying for the same limited number of contracts in houses where being assured of a steady year-round gig is a crapshoot. The days of go audition in Germany or bust are long gone.

Soprano Fotina Naumenko, now at work on her DMA in Voice at CCM is about to embark on a European tour, not to audition but to sing with the noted choral ensemble Conspirare. Fotina is writing her own career story as she goes along, having just returned from a year in Russia on a Fulbright.

Speaking of writing one’s own career story, this writer is old enough to have witnessed up close the rise from near-anonymity to stunning stardom of the then young Marilyn Horne.

Permit then this digression.

As a soprano who still had to find that three-octave contralto, mezzo-soprano, soprano three-in-one voice that we all recognize at the drop of a needle, Ms. Horne had kicked around Hollywood doing voice-overs, she had sung for and with Stravinsky, she had gone to Germany and festered on a fest contract in Gelsenkirchen for several years, singing Musetta and German operettas.

Then came her Marie in Woyzeck, with the San Francisco Opera in 1961, opposite Geraint Evans. And, finally, she sang Semiramide opposite the then unknown Joan Sutherland. And the rest is operatic history.

Marilyn Horne did not follow a conventional path. Her musical and vocal training was outside the university/conservatory world. She did coach with Ernest St. John (Jack) Metz, the go-to west coast operatic guru back in those days. And she built that enormous edifice of a career her own way.

That reminds one of what we all see in these young friends and their budding careers: intelligently and inventively, they are building things up one building block at a time.