Where am I going in the next few weeks?

Not quite in full swing, the arts season is getting off to a lively start, so lively, in fact, that it becomes a challenge to the culture vulture as much as to the casual arts attendee. What should I see this week? What’s out of the ordinary…off the beaten-path…outside the proverbial box?  Or by contrast: what’s up this week that will not make me have to think? Hey, I just want to be entertained! Something light, please!

So many choices…so little time….Whether you are a gourmet or a grazer when it comes to the arts, here’s a sampling of the stuff up ahead, some of which you may want to put on your plate for sampling.

Wagner, Wagner, Wagner

Unlike Dim Sum or Tapas some of the samplers coming our way are pretty large portions.

Like Wagner. If you were going to enter the Indianapolis 500 with the idea of seriously competing to win you wouldn’t drive up to the registration desk in your Toyota.

Same goes for singing Wagner. You need an ATV (all terrains voice) capable of singing for hours on end at both ends of the range and at full throttle, and one that should sound fresh and ready to have a go at it again at the end of operas that on the average can go well past four hours in running time.

When the MET sets out to do a production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, it makes sure it has not one but two dramatic sopranos and two dramatic tenors on tap to sing these two most grueling of all roles of the entire Wagnerian canon. Why two of each? Well, Wagnerian operas tend to cause singers to cancel performances due to vocal fatigue. So, just in case.

The MET has hired two fatigue-proof veterans to star as the ill-fated young lovers. Swedish soprano Nina Stemme, ( who just turned 51) headlines the cast as Isolde and Australian tenor Stuart Skelton (a mere 48) is her Tristan. Surrounding them, the supporting cast includes German megastar bass René Pape as King Marke.

English maestro Sir Simon Rattle will pace six of the eight scheduled performances. Polish stage director Mariusz Trelinski is responsible for the modernistic production which has received acclaim already after being seen in Baden Baden earlier this year.

T & I opens at the MET on September 26, but, unless you can fly there and pay a king’s ransom for a pair of tickets, your best bet is to catch the MET HD presentation on Saturday October 8, starting at noon and running until approximately 5 pm. Here in Cincinnati there are several venues that show those MET presentations. I like the easy to find Cinemark, in Oakley.

And in Cincinnati you can find Wagner at your disposal for a fraction of what you would pay if you had to travel to New York or even to Chicago, where the Chicago Lyric Opera begins a four-opera cycle this year with Das Rheingold, the prologue to Des Ring der Nibelungen.

The Wagner Society of Cincinnati (www.wagnersocietycincinnati.org) co-presents with the Queen City Chamber Opera (www.queencitychamberopera.org) on Friday, October 21 at 8:00 pm and again the following day at 3:00 p.m., the third act of Wagner’s Siegfried, third of the Ring Cycle operas.

Of the four, Siegfried is the most compact, calling for neither chorus nor a Rhine River on stage nor even flying warrior maidens on winged horses. What it does need is five solid singers and a committed conductor to whip up the whole thing into shape. And word has it that the young maestro Isaac Selya has been doing just that with his previous operatic outings. As for the singers, you can sample some of the sounds of the still young and fresh voiced cast on You Tube.

Singing all over Cincinnati

Tuesday September 20 at 8 pm in the Werner recital hall of the College Conservatory of Music, mezzo-soprano Mary Stucky and guitarist/lutenist Rodney Stucky present a program of vocal rarities that includes a brace of songs composed by the great Spanish poet-playwright-musician Federico Garcia Lorca. As with most CCM events this one does not require reservations and will only cost you the amount you pay for parking in the underground garage at CCM. Try that in New York or Chicago.

Wednesday October 5 at 8 pm will take a few of us on a sentimental walk down memory lane when CCM’s future Musical Theatre stars are featured in They Were You a salute to the songs of the team of Schmidt and Jones, creators of the world’s longest running musical, The Fantasticks. The show plays four more performances. Admission is free. Reservations are required. Tickets become available at noon on Monday, Oct. 3. Please call 513-556-4183 to reserve. Limit two tickets per order.


The CSI is not a government agency but an exciting new venture that dedicates itself to the rare art of the Art Song. Led by Samuel Martin, its Founder and Artistic Director, the Cincinnati Song Initiative (www.cincinnatisonginitiative.org) opens its first season at the Weston Gallery on Sunday October 16 at 3:00 pm with a concert featuring the songs of American composers Stephen Foster, Charles Ives, William Grant Still, Undine Moore, Ned Rorem and Libby Larsen. Some of the names may not be familiar to some, but those of Stephen Foster, author of Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair and Beautiful Dreamer or African-American composer William Grant Still should be remembered by lovers of American music that refuses the “classical” label.

In the program, sopranos Shareese Arnold and Alexandra Schoeny and tenor Jason Weisinger will be accompanied by Matthew Umphreys and Marie France Lefevbre.

Not full yet? Then be sure to sample two more free events at CCM coming up in the next month. In a school widely rated as one of the top five music schools in the nation, CCM graduates a relatively small number of young professionals in the DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) or in the Artist Diploma programs, and that goes for instrumentalists and singers; when a musician receives a post-graduate degree at the doctoral level you can rest assured that this is a young artist on the brink of a professional career that merits watching.

One of these bright young people under scrutiny is Fotina Naumenko, a spectacularly talented coloratura soprano that recently returned from a year in Russia as a Fulbright scholar. She is presenting the first of her doctoral degree projects on Tuesday October 18 at 6:45 pm at CCM and I would not miss it for the world whatever it is she is singing.

Same goes for the fine lyric tenor Pedro Andre Arroyo, also a doctoral candidate at CCM. His recital on Friday October 28 at 5:00 pm in the intimate Werner Recital Hall will include songs by Schubert and Puerto Rican composers. Always on the go Pedro next steps on stage as a Spanish cad who breaks the soprano’s heart in the Cincinnati Chamber Opera’s production of Manuel de Falla’s La Vida Breve.

But more about that later, when we look at the arts in November in Cincinnati.

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