Shareese Arnold sings Songs of Love


Soprano Shareese Arnold sings Songs of Love, including Strauss’ Four Last Songs, Wagner’s Wesendonck Songs, and Schoenberg’s Brettl Cabaret Songs.

The Cincinnati 4-Way Quartet accompanies her in the Strauss, arranged for string quartet by John Greer, and the Wagner, arranged for string quartet by Christophe Looten

Christina Lalog Seal is the accompanist for the Schoenberg songs.

The Cincinnati 4-Way Quartet will also play Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 76, No. 3, “Emperor.”

The concert is at 2 p.m. at Historic Peterloon Estate, and is co-presented by Music For All Seasons and the Wagner Society of Cincinnati.

Reservations at

Here she sings Fruehling (Spring) from Richard Wagner’s Wesendonck Songs



On Friday 3, at 5 p.m. in the intimate Werner Recital Hall, coloratura soprano Fotina Naumenko sings Monteverdi, Debussy, Strauss and more with Kseniia Poltianskina at the piano. Free admission.

Benjamin Britten’s gem of a comic opera, ALBERT HERRING, in a production directed by Opera d’arte’s Kenneth Shaw and conducted by Jesse Leong. Admission is free BUT tickets must be secured by calling 513 556 4183 STARTING TODAY AT NOON. And, word to the wise, they go fast. Performances this coming weekend on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

On Saturday 4 you can hear Verdi’s Rigoletto on the radio (WGUC in Cincinnati) starting at 12:55 p.m. In the title role, baritone Željko Lučić sings opposite Oksana Volkova, Stephen Costello and, in his MET debut, the impressive Italian basso Andrea Mastroni.

On Sunday 5, at 2 p.m., in the Dieterle Vocal Arts Center, CCM is giving MUSIC FOR FOOD, hand in hand with the Freestore Foodbank, in an effort to feed the hungry in the Queen City. You can bring $20 worth of canned goods, or non-perishable foodstuffs, or $20 in cash, and enjoy a feast of music featuring a variety of artists.




January 16 came and went, and my mind, frankly, was on everything having to do with what’s going on in our country. Today, January 25, I found by chance a Facebook posting of mine from two years ago honoring the birthday of Marilyn Horne, which happened to pass unnoticed by me this year.

Let me take a couple of minutes of our time and tell you why this homage.

I was 19, recently arrived in Los Angeles and already starting to think that I had a bass-baritone voice that could be trained for Opera. As it turns out that is not what I ended up doing, although I continue to worship at that shrine. Anyway, I was coaching my first operatic role ever – Don Alfonso in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. My coach was the immense in girth and even larger in genius Ernest St. John Metz – Jack to all his students.

One day I was just finishing a coaching when the door connecting Jack’s studio to the kitchen swung open and in came a lady that Jack called Jackie. She was carrying a tray of sandwiches and casually asked for me to stay and have lunch and listen to her coaching. I wish I remembered what she was preparing that day. She had recently returned from several years in Germany, singing the bread and butter soprano repertory.

Oh, that voice!

She was then, at age 28 or thereabouts changing “Fach” (what they call in Germany what we call “rep”) and was about to make a major debut with the San Francisco Opera as Marie in Wozzeck, opposite Geraint Evans. I saw that and was blown away by the whole experience, including Marilyn Horne’s uncanny ability to make Alban Berg’s jagged, tortured vocal line sound as beautiful as Bellini.

Shortly thereafter came regular appearances on TV talk shows, her Arsace in Semiramide, opposite Joan Sutherland, some years later her Carmen at the MET, and that extraordinary career became the stuff of legend.

I never again saw her socially, but heard her in performance again and again. She got better – if that is humanly possible – with each year.

After her retirement, Marilyn Horne started to teach master classes around the country and one day came to the University of Miami, where my wife, Kimberly Daniel taught Voice. I was out of town and could not come to the Master Class, but Kimberly somehow became Ms. Horne’s assigned faculty escort. She casually mentioned that her husband had coached with Jack Metz when he lived in Los Angeles. Kimberly still remembers how Marilyn Horne hugged her and would not let go of her hand all day long.

Interesting how someone like Marilyn Horne can impact lives. One of my friends, tenor Allan Palacios Chan has been coaching with Ms. Horne at the Music Academy of the West. The changes she has wrought in my young friend’s singing are nothing short of miraculous. I wish our CCM could steal the thunder of the other colleges that are having Marilyn Horne come in to teach master classes and bring her to Cincinnati.

But, in the meantime, here’s my belated Happy Birthday homage to Jackie Horne.









The work of the young artists of Opera D’Arte has always surprised me for both its immense promise and its accomplished results. Now we all look forward to more surprises in their upcoming staging of ALBERT HERRING.

The opera is Benjamin Britten’s third, written and performed in 1947 in the wake of the success of Peter Grimes and The Rape of Lucretia, and, while similarities between all three of these works are many, the singularly comic Albert Herring stands alone in Britten’s output as a gem of a comic chamber opera.

Britten’s flair for writing elegantly and idiomatically for the voice is present here as it is in all his work. So is the recurring theme of the rejection or suspicion of difference. Britten, at first a closeted homosexual and later an openly gay man living a visible public life in England during and after WWII, “writes himself” into this chamber opera and laughs at himself and at uptight Merry Old England, as embodied by the prejudiced community of a forgotten backwater.

Young Albert Herring forces the townspeople of East Sussex to accept his “oddity” by disappearing overnight on a drunken binge. With the coming of morning, a compromise is achieved and Albert can now carry on with the rest of his life.

Kenneth Shaw directs a cast of more than a dozen singers and Jesse Leong conducts.

Tickets become available this coming Monday, January 30 at noon. They are free and limited to two per party, but must be secured in person from the CCM box office or by phone (513 556 4183). Word to the wise, these tickets go fast.

Performances: February 3 and 4, at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 5 in the intimate Cohen Family Studio Theater at CCM.


A good looking pair of ill-starred lovers

960x410_abc7548076019252a17d5050a607daa7The MET HD presentation of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette has been given a terrific looking production by Bartlet Sher. The sets by Michael Yergan and the 18th century costumes by Catherine Zuber create an elegant and enlightened Verona.

Yergan’s set transforms from ballroom to balcony to Friar Laurent’s cell to nuptial chamber to tomb with minimal technical fuss. In a stunningly theatrical moment a huge billowing white cloth flies down to the stage cleansing the bloodbath of Verona’s public square and transporting the action to the nuptial chamber of the ill-starred lovers.

The Romeo and Juliette in this production are both very fine singers. As a welcome bonus, both Diana Damrau and Vittorio Grigolo are as good looking a pair as this reviewer has ever seen. Shakespeare indicates in the words of Juliette’s Nurse that she is fourteen. Romeo is not much ahead of her in years. Now try casting that in Opera.

Of course, for an opera singer as much as for any performing artist looks are fleeting. The voice is a different matter, with most sopranos and tenors entering their prime in their mid 40’s. And here, both Ms. Damrau and Mr. Grigolo are right there, at the top of their games. She has the suppleness of voice to sing her Act I waltz with grace and agility, and the capacity to dispatch the most dramatic passages with the same authority as she sings the lyrical moments in the role.

Vittorio Grigolo is a fine, youthful and elegant Romeo, as good as some of the great Romeos of the past, with the distinct advantage of possessing a lyric tenor voice never bothered by the high passages in the music. His delivery of Ah, leve toi soleil! is marvelous and his handling  of the French text is just about flawless. And then, he looks like an Italian youth of the time.

The remainder of the cast is strong. Elliot Madore is a mercurial Mercutio and sings the Queen Mab aria very well indeed. The Friar Laurent is nicely sung by Russian bass Mikhail Petrenko and Virginie Verrez is the troublemaking  but charming Stephano.

The MET orchestra and orchestra excels under the baton of Gianandrea Noseda. Here’s hoping that the MET continues to deliver productions and casts on this level. Next up on HD, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, also in a production by the factotum Bartlet Sher, a director who manages to create fresh and inventive takes on old warhorses without the excesses of European Regietheater.

Rafael de Acha

Farewell, Roberta Peters!


In the midst of everything else going on tonight, this news just in. Roberta Peters, who in my memory will forever live as Susanna, Zerlina, the Queen of the Night, Despina, Gilda, Lucia, Adina, Norina, Kitty and Anna in a production of The King an I in DC in 1972 in which my wife, Kimberly was also in the cast) just passed away.

No room here for an evaluation of her singing (I can always do that as comments on her many moments on You Tube or here on my blog later on), although let me be clear about my opinion: Roberta Peters was one of the great coloratura sopranos of the past century.

Her recordings are still around to prove it (check out her DG Magic Flute, her RCA Marriage of Figaro and Lucia), but what may be lost with her passing is a certain class and artistry also found these days, but not often.

In 1969 she sang Norina in at the Cincinnati Zoo Opera opposite Italo Tajo, and at the after-performance party at the home of Bob Orton, Pat Corbett announced to the guests that Kimberly and I had just been married. Roberta Peters took time to speak to us – two aspiring opera singers.

Years later she was a supportive colleague to Kimberly at Wolf Trap. Roberta Peters was one classy singer and one classy lady. Farewell!



It is both encouraging and challenging to one who reviews music – both live and recorded – to frequently receive sample CD’s by unknown artists for reviewing. When a new one arrives it usually sits on my desktop waiting its turn to be seriously listened to and evaluated.

But this morning it was different. I opened a package containing ASCENSION, a self-produced sampler CD of Russian-born guitarist Yuri Liberzon ( and casually put it on the CD player, and then even more casually went about my Saturday morning multi-tasking tasks.  And then something happened: the music stopped me on my mundane tracks.

I sat down to really listen, and I was enchanted.

In lesser hands this album could be deemed a musical grab bag of guitar evergreens, but Liberzon gracefully programs John Lennon/Paul McCartney’s Michelle back to back with Ernesto Lecuona’s Danza Lucumi, segues it with a Russian piece of Euro-pop provenance, then surprises us with a couple of Domenico Scarlatti sonatas transcribed by the guitarist himself.

Liberzon next takes on undaunted J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor, again in his own transcription from the original for solo violin. The last two tracks of the CD take us back to the world of jazz-inflected music with a six-minute-long composition by Keith Jarrett and, as the CD’s closing track, John Lennon/Paul McCartney’s Yesterday.

The entire mix works thanks to the impeccable taste of the artist.

Liberzon, who acknowledges among his musical mentors, Cuban master Manuel Barrueco, is a formidable technician who at no time appears to be out of his element, no matter how impossibly difficult the contrapuntal writing (Lecuona) or the agility demanded by pieces not meant for the guitar (Scarlatti, Bach).

But beyond technical dexterity, Liberzon is a resourcefully stylish artist possessing a strong ability to make his instrument change timbre and colors to better serve the music at hand.

I would recommend to anyone who loves the most intimate of instruments to order this album from its artist/producer, beautifully packaged and engineered as it is.

We now have to look forward to Liberzon’s next CD gem.

Rafael de Acha



(Photograph of Soprano, Amy Johnson by John Fitzgerald)

Looking at the CCM calendar, one is struck by the number of recitals and concerts being given by faculty members. The College Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati has an impressive number of artists who combine their teaching with performances in and out of the school. Being married to a Voice teacher I know all too well about the rigors of a teaching schedule – not only one to one work with the student, but attending rehearsals and performances, coaching ensemble work, researching and gathering music for the student to perform…

Hats off then to the following CCM Faculty who will be performing over the next several weeks in any one of the many of the school’s venues.

Sunday, January 15 at 4 pm in the Patricia Corbett Theatre. Free admission.

Soprano Patricia Linhart accompanied by pianist Julie Spangler welcome surprise guests to sing, cavort and complain about the challenges of aging and making music all at the same time in THE PAT AND JULIE SHOW (A.K.A. DIVA: RECONSTRUCTED)

Tuesday, January 17 at 8 pm in the Robert J. Werner Recital Hall. Free admission.

Soprano Amy Johnson and tenor Thomas Baresel regale us with songs and duets by Duparc, Rachmaninoff, Strauss and others, along  with powerhouse pianists Kenneth Griffiths and Mark Gibson.

Sunday, January 22 at 4 pm in the Robert J. Werner Recital Hall

Tenor Daniel Weeks and pianist Donna Loewy join forces in a recital of songs by Schubert, Quilter, Donizetti, Tosti and Dubois.

Monday, January 23 at 8 pm in the Patricia Corbett Theater. Free admission.

Saxophonist Craig Bailey channels Ray Charles, Art Blakey, Panama Francis and more in a musical travelogue titled From Blues to Bebop and Beyond accompanied by a seriously talented septet.

Tuesday, January 24 at 8 pm in Corbett Auditorium

CCM’s String Quartet-in-Residence, the Ariel Quartet, in the company of pianist Ran Dank and bassist Rachel will play Beethoven , Schubert and Bartok quartets and quintets. Tickets $25.

Wednesday, January 25 at 8 pm in the Cohen Family Studio Theater

James Bunte, an elegant instrumentalist who comfortably navigates the worlds of jazz and concert music will play his saxophone.

And that’s just the next couple of weeks.

WHAT, WHERE and WHEN: My January bucket list

WHAT, WHERE AND WHEN (my January bucket list)


On Saturday January 21 on the movie screens of the nation (check for local listings),opera megastars Diana Damrau and Vittorio Grigolo star as the ill-starred Romeo and Juliet in Gounod’s opera of the same title, live from the MET stage at 12:55 PM. Bartlet Sher’s production updates things by a couple of centuries and turns up the heat (see accompanying photograph)  but not so much as to distort the intentions of the composer or the Bard’s. Tickets are sold on line and, word to the wise, I would buy them that way if I were you. And, by the way, if you’re shut in by whatever reason, WGUC broadcasts the performance at the same time as the HD telecast. Have a look at the MET trailer:



The CCM Philharmonia and the CCM Concert Orchestra will return on January 27th at 8 pm, at CCM’s Corbett Auditorium, with a reading of Beethoven’s Symphony no.3, Eroica and faculty artists Alan Rafferty, cellist and Catherine Lees, violist in Richard Strauss’s quixotically post-Romantic tone poem Don Quixote. Admission is $15.

Here’s the final section of the work, in a 2004 Carnegie Hall performance conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, with cello soloist, Yo Yo Ma:



On Saturday, January 28, at 7:30 pm 19:30 21:00 at the Mercantile Library, Samuel Martin’s Cincinnati Song Initiative, in collaboration with the Alliance Française of Cincinnati celebrates the music of Les Six, the group of musical mavericks (see photograph) that turned French music on its ear during the first quarter of the 20th century.

The program includes songs by Poulenc, Auric, Durey, Honegger and Milhaud (in photograph, with Germaine Tailleferre) sung by soprano, Marie Marquis, mezzo-soprano, Ivy Waltz, and baritone, Alexander Hurd. Conceived and curated by Kenneth Griffiths, the other artists in the program are pianists Ahyoung Jung, and Samuel Martin.

French poet, playwright and all-around iconoclast Jean Cocteau heralded the arrival on the Paris musical scene of the 1920’s of these composers with these words: “Enough of clouds, waves, aquariums, water-sprites and night scents; we need down-to-earth music, everyday music.” For ticket and more information, visit

Meanwhile, to whet your appetite, here is baritone Gilles Cachemaille singing four of the Chansons Gaillardes of Francis Poulenc that will be performed in the concert:













In his insightful liner notes to the Westminster Williamson Voices’ Hole in the Sky (CD995 on the GIA Choral Works label –, conductor James Jordan quotes a line from the text of Thomas LaVoy’s setting of “As I Walk the Silent Earth” and eloquently speaks about “certain pieces of music that, by their very nature, ‘tear a hole in the sky…of our spirits and souls’.”

The worship music sung by the extraordinary double ensemble that makes up the Westminster Williamson Voices does speak directly to the spirit of the listener. It did to me.

The Spheres from Sunrise Mass I by the Norwegian-American Ola Gjeilo provides a haunting introduction to the album, eliciting seamless phrasing and subtle dynamics from the ensemble.

James Joyce’s Rain on Rahoon is the text for Eric Whitacre’s She Weeps Over Rahoon, with its intriguing use of pianissimo whispers simultaneous to singing, nicely executed by the choir.

Stephen Paulus’ Pilgrims’ Hymns takes a biblical passage and infuse it with theatricality, to which the ensemble responds in kind.

Aaron Copland’s arrangement of the Baptist hymn, Shall We Gather at the River is soulfully sung by Jordan’s troops.

Through fifteen impeccably-engineered tracks (Jon C. Baker Recordings), the The sound of the upper voices is lyrical, the bass sound at the opposite end of the staff rock solid, the inner voices of the altos and tenors always up front and present, creating an ongoing balance in all the tracks.

The ensemble comfortably transitions from a note-perfect Kyrie by Victoria to the Romanticism of Mendelssohn’s Veni Domine and Bruckner, to the ecstatic mysticism of the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Da pacem Domine, and on to very fine settings by Dan Forrest, Alice Parker, Britten and Duruflé.

Guided magisterially by James Jordan, the Westminster Williamson Voices sing with flawless musicianship, exquisite musicality and gorgeous vocalism. This is one of the most satisfying releases of choral music in this listener’s memory.

More, please!

Rafael de Acha