mezzo-soprano Emma Sorenson

Emma Sorenson


New this season, Cincinnati Opera is offering a trio of recitals featuring Young Artists at The Mercantile Library. Each 40-minute concert will include select art song and operatic repertoire inspired by characters from Cincinnati Opera’s 2017 Summer Festival. For more information, visit cincinnatiopera.org.

Frida Kahlo, Frida Fiercely independent, Frida Kahlo was revolutionary in both her politics and her art. Mezzo-soprano Paulina Villarreal, tenor Pedro André Arroyo, and accompanist Carol Walker will perform selections of repertoire focused on independent women, revolutionaries, Mexican and Hispanic composers, and those who find their own path to freedom through art. When: Wednesday, June 28, 6:00 p.m. Where: Mercantile Library, 414 Walnut Street, 11th floor, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Admission: Free & open to the public. Reservations requested: call (513) 621-0717 to reserve. 

Isabelle Eberhardt, Song from the Uproar An explorer and a writer, Isabelle Eberhardt defied convention at the turn of the 20th century as she dressed as a man, converted to Islam, joined a Sufi order, roamed the desert on horseback, and fell in love with an Algerian solider. Get a taste of her inspiring adventures as mezzo-soprano Emma Sorenson, tenor Benjamin Lee, and accompanist Elena Kholodova perform captivating repertoire centered on explorers, mavericks, vagabonds, and female librettists and composers.  When: Tuesday, July 11, 6:00 p.m. Where: Mercantile Library, 414 Walnut Street, 11th floor, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 Admission: Free & open to the public. Reservations requested: call (513) 621-0717 to reserve.

Rafael de Acha










The Art of the Piano: Running on all cylinders

Put together a faculty composed of major luminaries of the piano world helmed by our very own Cincinnati treasure Awadagin Pratt, give it a catchy title and invite two dozen young pianists to be mentored by a faculty of masters and watch the wondrous engine run on all cylinders.

Now on stage at CCM’s acoustically flawless Werner Recital Hall for the next three weeks. Tickets on line $20 at  http://artofthepiano.org/tickets/

I am unable to attend all of the wonderful offerings of this one-time event (which we fervently hope to see return next summer), but these are in my bucket list for the next couple of weeks:

Friday, June 2, 7:00 pm – Stewart Goodyear

Proclaimed “a phenomenon” by the Los Angeles Times and “one of the best pianists of his generation” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Stewart Goodyear is an accomplished young pianist as a concerto soloist, chamber musician, recitalist and composer. In his program, Stewart Goodyear will include works by Liszt, Gibbons, Bach, a premiere of one of his own compositions, and Beethoven’s Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Op. 101.

Saturday, June 3, 7:00 pm – Olga Kern  is now recognized as one of her generation’s great pianists. She jumpstarted her U.S. career with her historic Gold Medal win at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas as the first woman to do so in more than thirty years. Ms. Kern will play Beethoven’s Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, “Waldstein” and Franz Liszt’s Réminiscences de Don Juan (S. 418).

Sunday, June 4, 4 pm – Barry Douglas has established a major international career since winning the Gold Medal at the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition, Moscow. As Artistic Director of Camerata Ireland and the Clandeboye Festival, he continues to celebrate his Irish heritage while also maintaining a busy international touring schedule. His program will include works by Schubert and Beethoven.

Wednesday June 7, 7 pm – Kevin Kenner’s artistry is recognized throughout the world by three prestigious awards: the top prize at the International Chopin Competition, the recipient of the International Terrence Judd Award in London, and the bronze medal at the Tchaikovsky International Competition. In his recital he will play an all-Chopin program.

Friday June 9, 7 pm – Dan Tepfer has made a name for himself as a pianist-composer of wide-ranging ambition, individuality and drive. The New York City-based Tepfer, born in 1982 in Paris to American parents, has performed with some of the leading lights in jazz, including extensively with veteran saxophone luminary Lee Konitz. In the program: Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Tepfer’s Integrated Improvisations on Goldberg Variations.

Sunday, June 11, 4 p.m. Awadagin Pratt and Dennis Thurmond 

Artistic Director of Art of the Piano, Awadagin Pratt won the Naumburg International Piano Competition and two years later was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Since then, he has played numerous recitals throughout the US including performances at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall and the NJ Performing Arts Center, and appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra and the Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Baltimore, St. Louis, National, Detroit and New Jersey symphonies.

Dennis Thurmond is a master of free improvisation both in the classical and jazz realms. His signature performances and lectures feature his creation of improvised works in historic styles ranging from Czerny to present day. A classical and jazz pianist, as well as a keyboard synthesist, he is the author of Tai Chi of Improvisation, and co-author of Improvisation: A Systematic Approach for the Classical Pianist.

Friday June 16, 7 pm – Pianist and conductor Vladimir Feltsman is one of the most versatile and constantly interesting musicians of our time. His vast repertoire encompasses music from the Baroque to 21st-century composers. He has appeared with all the major American orchestras and on the most prestigious musical stages and festivals worldwide. The artist will play and all-Brahms concert.

There are many other events, master classes, free student recitals. For complete schedule go to http://artofthepiano.org

Rafael de Acha



logo-1Kimberly had gone to lunch with a couple of CCM colleagues. Around 1 pm, with only two shots of espresso inside me and a major case of breakfast withdrawal (for me breakfast can be breakfast at any time of day or night) I got in the car and drove little over one mile to WILD EGGS, at 7677 Montgomery Road.


Maybe the nicest all-day breakfast eatery I ever ate at. Ordered Eggs Benny, named I assume after the proprietor of this national chain. But don’t let the words ‘national chain’ deter you. This is all-day breakfast with class. The jumbo eggs were, as I had asked, over easy, sitting atop a mound composed of perfect Canadian bacon bathed in a béchamel sauce and happily paired to an English muffin.


On the side – and I mean on the side and not poured on top – perfect grits, lightly seasoned with butter already added to them. A pot of fresh dark coffee… A jar of water… A cloth napkin(!)  


For dessert (yes, I know, I should not have but I did) a perfect pancake with strawberries in the mix, not poured onto it in an unsightly glob. I asked for and got sugar-free syrup.


A bright room with paintings all over the walls, large windows that obviate the need for the inevitable neon lights on often encounters in casual eateries.    


Pleasant, professional service, young, neatly dressed, racially mixed staff and clientele, low noise level, flat screen TV playing sports but no sound.


Ambient music that is hardly noticeable. Comfortable booths… Easy parking…


Usually I write about the arts, but today I want to give a perfect ten to my new discovery in the realm of culinary arts.


We’ll be back for brunch later this week.


Rafael de Acha





On Sunday, June 4th at 5pm, the Bach Ensemble of St. Thomas led by Carlton Monroe, performs as part of its Vespers for Pentecost J. S. Bach’s Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! BWV 172, preceded by the Concerto for Two Trumpets by Vivaldi.

At the reception following the service, there will also be a chance to bid farewell to Jonathan Cooper, longtime bass soloist and Music Associate St. Thomas. Jonathan will soon be taking a new position as Communications Manager for the National Association of Episcopal Schools in NYC in mid-June. We wish Jonathan Godspeed in this new chapter of his career.

A Pre-Vespers Lecture at 4:30pm by Xavier University’s Prof. Douglas Easterling will be given before the concert.

Rafael de Acha




In a matter of just a few days, cellist Alan Rafferty joins the Ariel Quartet in a program featuring along with music by Mozart, Schubert’s String Quintet in C.

The concert is slated for Tuesday June 6th at 7 pm in Werner Recital Hall at CCM on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.

On June 9 at 7 pm, also in Werner Recital Hall at CCM, Felix Mendelsohn’s C minor Piano Trio and his Octet, Op. 20, will feature  Sarah Kim, Alan Rafferty, Janet Sung, Sandra Rivers, Rebecca Kruger Fryxell, Lee Nicholson, Marion Peraza de Webb, Catharine Carroll Lees and Rictor Noren

Tickets for the faculty/artist concerts are $20 and can be bought on line at www.cincinnatiyoungartists.org  or paid in cash or check at the door. CCM Students free with valid ID. $5 student tickets at the door. These events are not ticketed by CCM Box Office.

Email cincinnatiyoungartists@gmail.com for more information.



This is the first of several previews of music events in Cincinnati this summer.


Music Under the Stars at Greenacres Arts Center 8400 Blome Road, Indian Hill


June 22 Doors open at 6pm. Performance begins at 7pm.


§« Honeysuckle Saturday


Farm to Table »Julie Spangler, pianist of the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra, and friends.  Blankets and picnics are welcomed, no alcohol please.  A cash bar with light snacks will be available.  We offer some seating, but suggest you bring your own chair to guarantee a comfortable seat. Tickets are $15 per person.  In the event of rain, the performance will take place under the Grand Tent.

August 5 Gates open at 6:00pm Concert begins at 7:30pm

This year’s concert will feature performances by the Cincinnati Pops, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet and May Festival Chorus with John Morris Russell conducting. Performances will take place in the Greenacres Grand Tent at the Greenacres Arts Center. The program for this year’s concert will follow a Romeo and Juliet theme with classical music by Tchaikovsky, Gounod, Prokofiev, and Bernstein. There will be a cash bar and concession food from La Petite Pierre available for purchase, although no food or drink will be permitted to be brought in for this event.  Tickets: $25.

For questions about these events, please call 513-898-3256.  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~


 Rafael de Acha







Recently, a friend emailed me asking about what opera might be available for free or for little cost online this summer. At first I answered quickly telling him about the MET HD simulcasts that are being repeated this summer. I then decided to share with our readers a list of various sites where opera productions, concerts and librettos can be accessed.

OPERA PLATFORM   http://www.theoperaplatform.eu

I’ve been watching the interesting offerings from Opera Platform for some time now. I just opened the link to it on my computer and did a quick big moment by big moment tour of the Latvian National Opera production of Bizet’s Carmen.

The four principals sing in the original French and acquit themselves very well. Rumanian mezzo-soprano Ramona Zaharia looks great and sings and acts the title role with fire in the belly. Dmitry Golovnin, the Don José sings with a clarion dramatic voice and acts with conviction. Jānis Apeinis, the Escamillo and Laura Teivāne, the Micaëla are very fine too.

Jānis Liepiņš conducts the Latvian National Opera Orchestra and Chorus with a sure hand and a fine command of the score. In this starkly-designed and directed production, director Marie-Eve Signeyrole and designer Fabien Teigné set the action in a contemporary world devoid of much that is Spanish in either ambience or architecture. Overall though, this Carmen is a fine offering – the first of many on this website.

When you visit Opera Platform have a look at Rimsky Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel, sung in the original Russian and given with English subtitles. The Rimsky-Korsakov is splendidly sung, with Venera Gemadieva, a spectacular Russian coloratura soprano as the Queen of Shemakha and Pavlo Hunka, a memorable King Dodon. Imaginatively designed and directed by Laurent Pelly for Brussels’ La Monnaie, this is a great introduction to an operatic rarity.

The Opera Platform offerings are impressive: Mussorgsky’s The Fair at Sorochinsk from the Komische Oper Berlin, Handel’s Semele from the Badische Staatsteater Karlsruhe, contemporary works by Ginastera, Reinman, Martin, Nowak in productions from theatres all over Europe. AND JUST THINK: IT’S ALL FREE.

METROPOLITAN OPERA   http://www.metopera.org

The MET season is over until October, but the music continues. On line you can get MET ON DEMAND (http://www.metopera.org/Season/On-Demand for $14.99 a month or cheaper for a year at $149.99. You can watch literally hundreds of past productions from the MET on your computer, tablet, mobile phone or TV.

IMPRESARIO LIBRETTO   http://www.impresario.ch/

If all that operatic Italian, French, German, Czech or Russian intimidates you, go to this site and get the libretto you need to understand the words of operas from Adam to Zimmermann. And if the full libretto in English is not available, a summary of the plot usually is. This site also offers various pages of opera quizzes, trivia, sound links, etc.

OPERA GLASS   http://opera.stanford.edu/main.html

Visit this varied site and click on the link for its well-informed webmaster Rick Bogart for a one-of-a-kind operatic visit. The site has librettos, source texts, performance histories, synopses, discographies, and even a page about who created what role in which opera.

METROPOLITAN OPERA ARCHIVES  http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives

If you ever wondered who the tenor was who subbed at the last minute for an ailing Tristan in a MET matinee you listened to eons ago, this is your source.

Happy listening!

Rafael de Acha


NOW WHAT? Stories from the Trenches, part 2


I get to sing for a living and I am already extremely glad of where I am and where I’ve been.

I graduated in 2013 from CCM with my Masters Degree in Voice in 2013.

My first year out of school was tough in the sense that I was not getting much income from singing. After that, continuous work has sprouted up for me throughout the Midwest.

Some of the long established opera companies that I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with include Cincinnati Opera, Dayton Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera Columbus, Nashville Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera. Therefore, I have been able to keep Cincinnati as a home base. These companies house me when I work for them, but I still have a place to call home in Cincinnati, that has mostly been a very central location to most of my work.

I am very lucky.

Balancing financial planning as an independent contractor has its pros and cons. I have done a substantial number of young artist contracts, as well as principal artist contracts, but the pro to the young artist work is that it can be continuous work for months at a time. Although main-stage/principal artist work pays higher, it is often for one show at a time, while you can be a young artist at a company for an entire season and actually feel like a normal person with a 9-5 job, although that’s either a 7-3 for outreach, or a 2-10 for opera rehearsals!

Regardless, I am thankful!

I think the idea of travel is something that is glorified when one is a student in a conservatory. While there is a sense of excitement in being able to travel thanks to your craft, it really becomes a large portion of the job.

I did not realize I would become a professional traveler as well. In this year alone, I will work in 7 cities and while that sounds grand at first, it is extremely fatiguing to move each time, to reorganize your things, your routines, and your brain every time. I think the reality of the career of a musician really catches most people by surprise once they’re living it. It did me.

Although you may be able to explain what the future is supposed to look like, you surely can’t know what it feels like to live it, until you are doing it. I didn’t realize I would miss the people I care for as much as I do and I surely didn’t understand until what age you can be a “young artist.”

I did have a bit of a problem right out of school- and that is that I auditioned for EVERYTHING. This is a problem because auditions are investments. I did gain employment to fill my seasons from these auditions, but you find the balance of how much you are investing, with how much income the won opportunities afford you.

I sing about 25 auditions a year and when I’m not in rehearsal, I am learning music for an upcoming engagement. There is also a lot of work in promoting yourself, keeping in touch with contacts, and arranging your travels, as well as so many other things that are just as much a part of the job as doing the craft itself.

Although it is a strenuous and hard-working life, it is also one of passion and one filled with music. I have not worked a non-singing job in three and a half years and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I get to sing for a living and I am already extremely glad of where I am and where I’ve been.



Melissa Bonetti, mezzo-soprano



Because of Cincinnati’s thriving arts community, I do not see myself relocating any time soon.

“Now what?” That is a good question…

There is no question that the road to becoming an opera singer is not an easy one. While I have been lucky to have coaches and directors supporting me by offering me work at the regional level throughout the country, I still struggle to find enough work to support myself without having to find another job. This brings me to the major struggle of being a young opera singer, money.

Being an aspiring opera singer is expensive. I need to apply to young artist programs, which can cost hundreds of dollars depending on the number of programs to which I apply. If an audition is out of town, which many are, I need to find affordable travel to get me to and from the audition. Further, I need to prepare for these auditions by working with a coach as well as my teacher which, now that these services are not provided by a school, can be extremely expensive.

There is also the important subject of college loans. I am grateful that most of my education was paid for by scholarships, but I still managed to accrue a significant amount of debt which I am currently paying off. All of these things led me to the realization, “If I am going to succeed in this business, I am going to need a job…”

I am fortunate to have a job teaching voice at the college level. This job allows me the flexibility (within reason) to take outside gigs (both large and small) and, also, keep auditioning for companies. However, because I need to be available to my students, I have to be very specific as to which auditions/gigs I take. This makes it difficult to follow the advice “sing for everyone”, as there simply is not enough time.

Overall, teaching offers me great freedom to take gigs when I can or want to. Further, living in a city like Cincinnati, which has such a thriving arts community, allows me plenty of opportunity to perform. These opportunities have come in many forms outside of the classical voice genre. While living in Cincinnati, I have performed in musicals as well as straight plays. These experiences have proved invaluable to my growth as an artist as they force me to focus more on my stagecraft rather than my singing ability.

Because of Cincinnati’s thriving arts community, I do not see myself relocating any time soon. Many of my colleagues are moving to Europe, specifically Germany, to try and begin a career at a company through a Fest * contract. I have thought about this option many times, but have not yet made the commitment to travel across the world to do so.


Tyler Alessi, baritone



Franz Schubert – The Complete Original Piano Duets – Goldstone & Clemmow

From his Fantasie in G Major, D 1, published in 1822 when he was twenty-five years old, through the Andante in A minor, D 968, composed in 1831, the final year of his short life, Franz Schubert wrote many piano duets. These compositions, meant to be played on one piano, four hands were among the most beloved of Schubert’s compositions, ranking in popularity with his songs in the salons of Vienna of the composer’s time.

During the years they were active as a concert piano duo, starting in 1984 and continuing through Golddstone’s passing in 2017, Caroline Clemmow and Anthony Goldstone  concertized widely in the UK, in Europe, and in the United States. They also recorded in addition to this set of the complete piano duos of Franz Schubert , eighteen other CD’s of music for piano duo by composers ranging from Mozart to contemporary English ones all under the creative supervision of Stephen Sutton, of Divine Art.

The boxed set,  Franz Schubert – The Complete Original Piano Duets – Goldstone & Clemmow (dda21701) is nicely produced and annotated by the artists themselves.  The total playing time of close to nine hours requires the listener to set aside quality time to devote to the enjoyment of this set of seven CD’s. I did, over the course of a week and came away from the experience with very positive feelings and a sense of accomplishment.

Because the selections are not played in any particular order other than that determined by the choice of the artists, it would be unnecessary to list all the selections, and nearly impossible to give a critical commentary on each of the several dozen compositions. Suffice then for one to share overall impressions, starting with that of being awestruck by the undertaking itself.

We listened with admiration to the youthful  Sonata in C ‘Grand Duo’, D. 81 and to the mature Fantasie in F minor, D. 940, the Allegro in A minor (‘Lebensstürme’), D. 947, and the Sonata in C ‘Grand Duo’, D. 812. The playing of Goldstone & Clemmow is assured at all times, idiomatic, quite often virtuosic, and always unfailingly imaginative. The musicianship, the accuracy, the inventiveness are there, and throughout all seven of these recitals on CD one senses from this invaluable duo an abiding love for this music.

The artists recorded the set over two years – 1998 and 1999, and the acoustically friendly environment of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Alkborough, North Lincolnshire in the artists’ native England gives the set an up close sonic quality that is most satisfying.

As is the case here and with title after title in the Divine Art catalogue (www.divineartrecords.com) this boxed set is an indispensable treasure trove of musical rarities played by two remarkable artists.

Rafael de Acha



With program notes as insightful as the ones written by Stewart Goodyear for Stewart Goodyear Ravel, a new CD from Orchid Classics (www.orchidclassics.com) not much is left for the reviewer to add, other than raves.

Goodyear takes the listener on a 68 minute journey that spans Jeux d’eau, Sonatine, Miroirs, Gaspard de la Nuit and Pavane four une Infante defuncte. Throughout he keeps the listener enthralled with his technical wizardry, his elegance, his ability to color the sound in a myriad of ways. All the while one senses that the artist is ever at the service of the composer, not as an obliging servant but as a knowing collaborator who understands the quirky twists and turns of Ravel’s music.

Ravel, half Basque, half Swiss, French by birth but Iberian by temperament, finds much to mine for inspiration in the music of the Peninsula and never more than in Miroirs. Goodyear one would dare say, feels the Spanish mix of ice and fire that colors Noctuelles, Oiseaux tristes, Une barque sur l’ocean, Alborada del Gracioso and La vallee des cloches. His playing of this work is as memorable as I have ever heard.

The album is handsomely packaged in a (thank goodness!) 10 millimeter case and accompanied by insightful program notes.

Rafael de Acha