GIVING THANKS

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Barely 8 months have passed since on March 17 of this year I wrote our first post for www.Rafaelmusicnotes.com In the ensuing months my blog has welcomed 3,242 visitors – 584 of them regulars who also follow my Music for All Seasons in Cincinnati Facebook group page, where they can also find postings by other colleagues involved in the arts.

Our followers have viewed 100 posts of ours 5,483 times. I have then shared those in other pages of CCM alumni and students. We’ve posted reviews of theatre, dance and musical performances given here in Cincinnati as well as recordings of music of all kinds made all over the world. We are happy to have helped promote the work of individual artists and arts organizations in our Queen City and as far afield as Cuba, Australia and Europe. Artists whose work I have loved have then quoted and thanked me in their own web pages and blogs. But it’s me who has to give thanks.

To say that I am thrilled is an understatement. And it is not all. I am above all immensely grateful to Cincinnati, a great city that welcomed Kimberly and me seven years ago. And, more than anything else, I want to wish my readers a joyous holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving and continuing through the coming months of holidays and celebrations. We are all of us in this together, celebrating the arts, one of the greatest gifts in life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rafael de Acha

 

VOCALISTS HEADS UP!

pageimage-499659-4463461-3artscolorbannerThe 3 Arts Scholarship Fund will be awarding $240,000 in scholarships in 2017!  This notice is intended to make you aware of the opportunity for female students to apply for these scholarships.  The organization has been in existence since 1911 and is funded in part by the late Mrs. Louise Dieterle Nippert.
The women who may apply must be Greater Cincinnati area college juniors, seniors or masters degree candidates whose major area of study is Music (Vocal or Instrumental), Musical Theater/Drama or Visual Arts.  The applicants should submit an example of their work (requirements vary by discipline)  and the signed release form as instructed on the application form by Friday, January 20, 2017.    Applications are available on our website: www.3ArtsScholarshipFund.org.  You can also contact Carol Kruse, Scholarship Coordinator at info@3artsscholarship.org or 513-231-3064 with questions.
Please visit our website and pass this information along to anyone who you think may be interested in applying.

CINCINNATI’S BEST 2016 ARTS EVENTS

 

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Photographs clockwise: Mam-Luft&Co Dance / Samuel Martin / PauLina Villareal / Pedro Arroyo / Amy Johnson / Eckart Preu / Sara Vautour / The cast of They Were You / Aaron Blake and Joseph Lattanzi in Fellow Travelers / Kenneth Shaw / Nadine Sierra

Here, in more or less chronological order are our 2016 favorite Cincinnati arts events.

In January, in the latest creation by MamLuft&Co. Dance, nine dancers riveted attention during the two halves of Double/Sided, an evening-long exploration of the chaotic nature of human relationships.

In a concert performance of Strauss’ Salome, soprano Amy Johnson took on this volcanic assignment brilliantly, conquering its perils with an impressive command of the role’s vocal and dramatic complexities.

In the same performance bass-baritone Kenneth Shaw sang the role of John the Baptist with stentorian authority and portrayed the part of the doomed prophet with his usual attention to the subtleties of text.

In March the highlight was Kenneth Shaw‘s Opera d’Arte production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda . In  the role of the doomed Mary, Queen of Scotland, the young  Sarah Vautour, under the direction of Amy Johnson, combined nobility of bearing, acting chops, and a voice and technical ease that bore an uncanny resemblance to the young Beverly Sills.

Tenor Rodrick Dixon sang a 30-minute pre-concert recital at the May Festival with the superb pianist Michael Chertok. Dixon’s singing was glorious and his artistic instincts precise and tasteful.

Art Song seems to be enjoying a welcome comeback. Samuel Martin‘s Cincinnati Song Initiative  had an auspicious start in an all-American song recital  featuring several very promising young singers in the gallery space at the Aronoff Center. Nadine Sierra sang the closing concert of Matinee Musicale with radiant tone and acute sensibility in a wide-ranging program with the support of the superb pianist Bryan Wagorn.  Pedro Arroyo in two recitals at CCM proved himself more than capable of handling a wide ranging repertory of songs in several languages and styles with finesse and assured vocalism. Mexican mezzo-soprano PauLina Villareal sounded perfectly at home in a couple of recitals also at CCM, impressively singing everything from Kurt Weill cabaret pieces to Cuban salon songs to a contemporary work in which she acted as both singer and percussionist.

The Cincinnati Opera season featured a very fine Fidelio and one of the best productions of Tosca in memory. But it was the astounding Fellow Travelers the one event that proved truly remarkable with an all-American cast of veteran pros and young singers that proved to the unbelievers that contemporary opera is alive and well.

(reviews: http://seenandheard-international.com/2016/07/striking-visuals-are-just-the-beginning-of-this-tosca/

http://seenandheard-international.com/2016/07/beethovens-impassioned-cry-for-the-rights-of-ma/

http://seenandheard-international.com/2016/06/new-opera-documents-a-sober-era-in-american-history/

At CCM, They Were You, Aubrey Berg’s gem of a revue of the works of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt was a sheer delight, featuring a cast of superb singing actors and the peerless Steve Goers at the piano.

The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra came back in the summer with a four-concert season  The level of the work reassured us that the CCO is here to stay. Add to that the appointment of Eckard Preu as its musical director and rest assured that the future looks bright for our “second” orchestra

Rafael de Acha

Note: All of the events on this list were reviewed for http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com and, in some cases, for http://www.SeenandHeard-International.com

 

 

 

 

 

WAGNERIANS IN CINCINNATI

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A GROUP OF YOUNG WAGNERIANS

The Wagner Society of Cincinnati sponsors concerts and lectures. It also ties in to the events of other arts organizations, such as the scaled down presentations of acts from Wagner operas recently presented by the Queen City Chamber Opera.

Yet another pursuit of the WSC is nurturing of the careers of young singers whose voices demonstrate Wagnerian potential.

A recent concert given by the Society at the Ascension & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Wyoming featured six early-career artists singing excerpts from Wagner operas along with arias from Show Boat, Werther, La Forza del Destino, Aida, and The Magic Flute.

Two sopranos, Shareese Johnson Arnold and Sarai Elizabeth Cole were joined by mezzo-soprano Andria L. Helm and bass-baritone Rocky Eugenio Sellers in an extended excerpt from the opening scene of Das Rheingold.

The accompanist and music director for the concert was Jesse Leong, who led the trio of Rhine Maidens in the fateful encounter with Alberich that sets in motion the four-opera Ring of the Nibelungs cycle. Jonathan McPhee is the author of The Essential Ring, from which the arrangement for piano that was used originates.

From the beginning of the concert it was clear that all of the voices that would be heard that afternoon were capable of meeting the demands that Wagnerian singing makes on the human voice.

Sarai Elizabeth Cole’s singing of Einsam in truben Tagen from Lohengrin showed impressive vocalism and emotional commitment.

Shareese Arnold, a true lyric spinto voice excelled in her singing of O patria mia from Verdi’s Aida, proving her mettle from the opening recitative to the final ascent to the high C that climaxes the aria.

Andria L. Helm was sensitive, vocally supple and stylistically on point in the Air des Lettres from Massenet’s Werther.

Chelsea Duval-Major, a former mezzo-soprano spoke with candor and humor about the difficulties of her current change of vocal category. After admitting that this was the first time she was to sing in public as a soprano she sang impressively and unapologetically Leonora’s Pace, pace from La forza del destino.

The Wagnerian bass-baritone is a hybrid of sorts: a higher voice than that of a true bass but not altogether a baritone either. Rocky Eugenio Sellers, impressed with an Ol’ man river that offered no challenges to him at either end of the song’s wide range.

Jacob Kincaide, a true bass, poured out a torrent of voice, singing Hagen’s Watch from Gotterdammerung. He later closed the concert with an elegantly sung O Isis und Osiris.

Led by James Slouffman, the Wagner Society of Cincinnati nurtures the development of an audience for the music of Richard Wagner. Their activities offer a welcome showcase of Wagnerian voices to the Cincinnati music scene.

A POST-REVIEW APOLOGY TO THE ARTISTS:

My appreciation and support are unstinting, even if my memory falters now and then. In my writing of the review I mistakenly credited mezzo-soprano Chelsea Duval-Major for her singing of Leonora’s aria from La forza del destino and proceeded to compound my screw up by heaping praise on soprano Andria Helm for singing the letter scene from Werther. In point of fact, Ms. Duval-Major was the singer whom I should have lauded for her lovely rendition of the Massenet and, conversely, praise was meant to be given to Ms. Helm for her debut as a soprano in the Verdi and earlier for a very fine Du bist der Lenz, which I left unmentioned but not forgotten. As you could surmise I could use an editor! That said, apologies and renewed praise all around.

 

 

 

 

CENDRILLON: A DREAM OF A SHOW

cendrillon-1CENDRILLON AT CCM: A DREAM OF A SHOW

Sometime around 1695, the very serious Charles Perrault, decided to lighten up and write Mother Goose Tales, a collection of fairy tales for children that included among others Little Red Riding Hood, The Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

Sometime around 1899 Perrault’s tale about the scullery maid who becomes a princess inspired French composer Jules Massenet to compose Cendrillon.  Nothing in his output had prepared the public for something as delicate and humorous as Cendrillon.

At CCM Cendrillon is staged as a dream that becomes reality in a modern-dress production now on stage in Corbett Auditorium through Sunday.

Lucette (Grace Newberry) is a shy script girl working on a film shoot. She falls asleep on the set and dreams of meeting the prince of her dreams. Enter a friendly costume designer (Erica Intilangelo) who moonlights as a Fairy Godmother to script-girls in need. Yes, she can work things out for Lucette, get her a Dior couture party dress, a pair of golden high heel shoes, and even arrange a ride to the Prince’s ball in a scooter, the way they do in France. But there’s one condition: Lucette has to be back on the movie set by midnight.

When she awakens from her dream Lucette overhears the film crew discussing the starlet who not only stole the show the night before, but possibly even the handsome Prince’s heart.

As Cendrillon/Lucette Grace Newberry‘s stands out in voice and in poise, delivering a performance that balances humor and poignancy in equal measures. Picture-pretty Erica Intilangelo rides with ease the stratospheric heights of the role of the Fairy Godmother, dispensing perfect high notes like fairy dust. Kayleigh Decker, convincingly plays the pants role of the handsome movie idol turned Prince Charming and sings like a gossamer dream. Christian Pursell in the part of the henpecked Pandolphe, is note-perfect and poignant. The comical Nicole Hodgins as Noémie and Chelsea Melamed as Dorothée  play two untalented wannabe actresses, daughters to the daunting Madame de La Haltière, an older battle-ax character actress sung by Karis Tucker, whose descents into contralto territory are hilarious and impressive.

Director Robin Guarino stylish and expansive directorial vision drives the show on its happy journey. The stage set by Thomas Unfrid’s seamlessly transforms itelf from reality into dream and back. The costumes by deign student Maria Lenn manage to be 1970’s in accuracy, terribly French and wacky all at once. Eric McCandless lights the show with glitzy flair, and the terrific wigs and make up by Shannon Hutchins are perfect when pretty and perfectly awful when called for. Marie France Lefevbre keeps the cast’s French Parisian, intelligible and singer-friendly. And, finally, the choreography of several sequences by Vincent De George is whimsically inventive and elegant.

The orchestra plays the score of the opera with nuance, conviction and flair, led by Mark Gibson whose peerless work at CCM and elsewhere continues to earmark him as a great opera conductor, one perfectly at home in the very French, very Romantic, very beautiful music of Massenet.

Productions like this one should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to CCM’s preeminence as one of America’s great conservatories. This Cendrillon, a dream of a show, is proof palpable “for real.” Those interested in an enchanting trip into fantasyland, so much needed these days, have three more performances to hop the ride.

 

 

 

 

Holiday Concert at Peterloon

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Please join us as we Celebrate the Holidays with Pop, Jazz, Musical Theatre, Classical, Folk & More

Featuring: Aubrey Berg, Pamela Myers, Kenneth Shaw, Kimberly Daniel, Rafael de Acha, James Bunte, Patricia Linhart,  Mary Henderson, Rod Stucky, & Kim Pensyl with Pedro Arroyo, Michelle Coben, Paul Schwensen, Kimberly Pine, Tyler Sodoma, Emily Fink, Allan Pelacios Chan, Kimberly Pine, PauLina Villareal and Samuel Martin and Evan Roiders

Tour historic Peterloon, decorated for the holidays, and meet the artists afterward for seasonal desserts, coffee and tea

Sunday,  December 4, 2015, at 2:00 pm at Peterloon Estate 8605 Hopewell Road Cincinnati, OH  45242

Tickets $30.00 Students $ 15.00 at the door, subject to availability CASH OR CHECK ONL Send ticket orders to: Music for All Seasons, PO Box 43172 Cincinnati, OH 45243                                 

About  Music For All Seasons At Historic Peterloon A series of four tea-time concerts presented on Sundays at 2:00 P.M.,  celebrating music for the voice and other instruments.

Proceeds from all concerts to benefit CCM Scholarships

For further information please contact Rafael de Acha at musicseasons@zoomtown.com OR VISIT US at http://www.musicseasonscincinnati.com

  

 

SOFIA SELOWSKY ON THE WAY UP

 

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In Opera, the mezzo-soprano is often stuck with the kind of roles Italians call “seconda donna” – second woman parts. You know, mostly the soprano’s servant or the “other girl”- the one who doesn’t get the boy… or the ugly witch or the kind old soul…

But, if you are a pretty mezzo-soprano and have a voice to match your looks, there’s this other world that opens up: all those wonderful “pants roles” – Octavian, Cherubino…all those Rossini leads – Cenerentola, Rosina, Isabella…all those French Romantic heroines – Charlotte…Mignon…

Mezzo-soprano Sofia Selowsky (www.sofiaselowsky.com)  graduated with a Master’s degree from CCM in 2014. In the brief space of two years she has moved rapidly in her career, transforming herself from promising young singer into a very busy up and coming artist.

When we first heard Sofia in a CCM production of Chabrier’s L’étoile in February of 2014 we raved in our review for www.SeenandHeard-International: “Sofia Selowsky, a regional finalist now on her way to the Metropolitan Opera’s national auditions, is the ideal singer for the dugazon part of Lazuli, her supple voice with just the right balance of mezzo richness at the low end of the compass and a glistening upper-range. Boyishly beautiful, Selowsky was never better than in the lovely ‘O ma petite étoile,’ a bedtime serenade to her beneficent star sung so as to melt the hardest of royal hearts.”

Sofia’s transformation owes as much to her natural talents as to her work ethic. On two occasions she sang for Music for All Seasons, a concert series which we run in Cincinnati. She distinguished herself as a recitalist, stylishly singing by memory music by Montsalvatge, Donizetti, Beethoven and Schubert in flawless Spanish and Italian.

Then followed the tricky transition that all singers have to confront after graduation…

Sofia won the district and regional MET auditions and made it all the way to the national finals. She landed a two-year contract as a Studio artist at the Houston Grand Opera.

Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, the Fox in The Little Prince, and Nell Gwynn in the world premier of Carlisle Floyd’s new opera, Prince of Players came as plum assignments on the main stage.

At present, Sofia is preparing for a recital at Houston’s famous Menil Collection, where she will be performing de Falla’s Siete Canciones Populares in conjunction with the museum’s Picasso art exhibit.

Her engagement calendar continues to fill up with the help of her management, L2 Artists.com.

In December she will be performing Handel’s Messiah with the Minnesota Orchestra. Later in the season there’s Mozart Requiem with the Sarasota Orchestra, de Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat with the Houston Symphony, and a return to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis this coming summer.

Here’s hoping that the Cincinnati Musical Powers can find a way to bring Sofia back to the Queen City very soon.

They will be thrilled with the results.

Rafael de Acha

 

 

 

 

 

 

DANNY WHITE RIDES A JUGGERNAUT

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DANNY WHITE RIDES A JUGGERNAUT

Even if you haven’t heard who Danny White is you must have heard about a Broadway show called The Lion King.

After graduating CCM in 2016 (as a conducting pupil of Roger Grodsky) Danny has worked steadily as Associate Conductor of the North American Tour of The Lion King.

Now in his fifth city and, in his words, “greatly enjoying my job”, Danny just got the news that the North American Tour of the show, which has been running without pause for almost 15 years, will be closing for a few months and reopening in the fall as a more streamlined adaptation of the show, one the producers hope to send to smaller markets the show has not yet reached.

Most likely Danny will continue to work as Associate Conductor in that new production. If he does not remain with the show there will be other projects that will keep both the wolf and the lion from Danny White’s door and open other doors for him.

Danny speaks about where things are at for him at this point in his still young career:

“Aside from my duties with The Lion King (which are many, as the quality of the show is consistently and rigorously upheld), I haven’t been involved in much, save for a few small side projects that have been asked of me by colleagues. Thinking beyond The Lion King, I’d like to eventually move back to New York (I was there a whole month before leaving for this tour!) and continue my musical endeavors on Broadway. But this may be a few years out still, depending on how long I stay with this juggernaut of a show.”

One thing is certain: Broadway music is Danny’s territory. He trained to specialize in it, but his enormous musicianship has allowed him to conduct, accompany, write, arrange and play all kinds of music with assurance and a terrific sense of style.

One of these days you are most likely to see Danny White leading the orchestra in a Broadway show either in New York or in a theater near you.

Rafael de Acha

SHAWN MLYNEK, OUT OF SIGHT BUT VERY MUCH IN MIND.

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It often happens with young artists, as they set out at the start of a professional career that they fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” group. Here’s the first of several postings on this blog to remedy that situation.

Tenor Shawn Mlynek graduated CCM in 2012, with a Master’s degree under his belt and a good command of vocal technique instilled in him by CCM Voice Professor Mary Stucky.

After co-founding with Autumn West the Cincinnati Chamber Opera Group, Shawn made his next move and headed for Germany, where he did the audition tour every aspiring singer has to do when they arrive in that country hoping to begin a professional career.

The young tenor landed a steady gig (festen Vertrag) in the ensemble at the Stadttheater Giessen – the municipal theatre in a small college town in the Hessian region of Germany, just a short train ride from Frankfurt.

In the German system of municipal theatres, a mix of concerts, opera, operetta, dance and theater is presented year round to the population.

As an ensemble member, Shawn has gotten his stripes singing small roles in opera, operetta and musicals while being groomed for the bigger assignments that he is now beginning to take on.

A pure-voiced lyric tenor with a flexible voice that has an even mix of sweetness and cutting power, and bearing an uncanny vocal resemblance to one of the great Russian tenors of the 20th century – Leonid Sobinov – Shawn has started to make guest appearances with other theatres and orchestras in Europe.

In 2017 he will essay several Mozart roles. Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio, which I wager Mlynek will sing in any one of the many languages in which he is fluent, will mark his operatic debut in Slovakia at the Slovak National Theater in Bratislava.

Shawn will next take on a still bigger challenge: Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Estates Theater in Prague.

There will be several levels of emotion at play in his heart as Shawn steps 239 years later onto the stage where Mozart’s dramma giocoso premiered in 1787.

Back in his home theater, Shawn will be covering the role of Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte and continuing to enlarge his repertory with roles large and small in Bernstein’s Mass, Verdi’s La traviata and Boieldieu’s La Dame Blanche.

When asked about his future plans, Shawn does not hesitate.

“My future plans are to continue to sing as much as I can, and prepare for the next phase of the journey which hopefully will include a family.  I’ve really been learning how to balance a professional performance career with a personal life, so I look forward to all of the professional and personal adventures that await!”

Here’s Shawn Mlynek in concert, singing Levko’s aria, Spi moya krasavitsa (“Sleep my beauty!”) from Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s May Night

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ug-WseMf1t4

NO LONGER A STRANGER

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Paulina Villareal is about to take us on a journey through the stage works of the rabble-rousing son of a respectable Rabbi, darling of the German art scene of the 1900’s, a bespectacled and bald musical genius equally at home in the music hall and in the concert hall but uncomfortable in polite society.

His name, Kurt Weill. Paulina’s show: I’m Just a Stranger Here Myself.

In case you forgot the name, Mack the Knife might trigger your memory.

After penning Threepenny Opera and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and Happy End, Kurt Weill had to get out of Germany one step ahead of the thugs who were starting to round up Jews.

By way of Paris, where he wrote Marie Galante, he and Lotte Lenya made it to New York, where Weill wrote over a period of ten years a handful of musical theatre gems…operas…musicals…

Weill took American Musical Theatre kicking and screaming into the 20th century long before there was a Bernstein or a Sondheim.

Petite, with a creamy mezzo-soprano that she can turn chanteuse in a heartbeat, Paulina has an in-your-face south of the border charm, but she can summon the hard edge needed to put across the lamentations of Pirate Jenny and the New York neurosis of the urban heroine of Lady in the Dark. 

Paulina will be singing all of that music and then some. 

Oh, did I forget to mention Kenneth Griffiths at the piano and Pat Linhart on the accordion?

I hope you get the picture: this is not your grandfather’s song recital but a theatrical-musical feast about to hit the stage for only one performance next week.

Mark your calendar: November 21 at 6:45 PM in the Cohen Recital Studio at CCM. Free admission. If I were you I wouldn’t miss it.