Paulina Villareal

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





Shawn sang for our concert series, Music For All Seasons four years ago. At that time, just about to receive his Master’s degree in Voice from CCM, he showed a great deal of promise as a fine young lyric tenor. Amazing what four years of hard work can bring about!

Rafael de Acha


What we do is a soul service to others: be sure you are serving and treating yourself well in the process.

“Now what…”…the two words every performer dreads. The two words that force one to contemplate life’s choices, skills, and prospects… Hopefully a little bit of my story and advice can help those who are transitioning into a career, and help enable them to address the question of “Now what” head-on!

I’m very thankful that I make all of my money through singing, whether on stage or teaching. Though it is a difficult career- I’m hard pressed to find one more emotionally challenging – I’m very grateful for the chance to be able to support myself and pay off my student loans through singing!

I made a move to Europe in May of 2015 to fulfill a concert contract. Luckily I landed a fest * contract one month later at the Stadttheater Gießen, where I sing both as a soloist and in the chorus. I also cover** large roles, which has allowed me to expand my repertoire.

Just a side note for those thinking of moving to Europe: chorus contracts are much better than soloist contracts.  You receive better pay, health insurance, and your retirement fund builds up. Also, though this depends on the theater, chorus contracts allow flexibility to travel for auditions or to pursue projects. For me, my multi-faceted contract has offered the best of both worlds.

I have now begun to appear as a guest soloist, and in the coming season will be debuting in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Portugal, Scotland, and Switzerland. Lots of opera, lots of concert work, and lots of recitals. Bach and Mozart pay my bills!

Having an agent definitely helps, but many of my engagements come from my own research and networking. The biggest advice I can give to singers transitioning into this career is this: make sure your voice, acting, and stage skills are at a very high level. Do not cut corners with your ongoing training, even after school! I know many singers here in Europe who “land” their first contract and then stop working on their voices. This is the exact opposite of what one should do.

My voice has been changing in the last year, and will continue to do so during my late twenties and early thirties. A singer needs to make sure that his/her voice is where it needs to be. Skype makes this very easy for those who travel a lot as you can stay in touch with your vocal coach through it. Also, learn how to mark***. This will save your voice when you have 8-hour days of staging rehearsals.

Another piece of advice, and the biggest thing that I am learning at this moment in my life, is to allow yourself to have interests other than singing. It sounds silly, but this has been a revelation to me. Find your joy! For me it is my Christian faith and my new-found hobby of gardening.  Find things that fulfill and ground you. The career will always be turbulent, so find things that make you feel settled, and learn to enjoy where you’re at and what you’re doing.

Oh, and one more thing and I promise this is the last: save all of your receipts for tax purposes. Whether it is application fees, lessons, audition attire, gas to drive to gigs, save everything, and work with a tax service. You will get a lot of money back. For singers in the US making less than $50,000 per year, the United Way offers a free tax service. Call and make an appointment.

Be courageous, and diligent, and also be kind to yourself. What we do is a soul service to others: be sure you are serving and treating yourself well in the process.

Shawn Mlynek, tenor

J.S. Bach – The Passion according to St. Matthew https://youtu.be/kjBkVGwXSPc

Ah! Mes amis…from Donizetti’s La fille du regiment https://youtu.be/24rttFkfWug

By Strauss – George Gershwin https://youtu.be/_2ghmxhIr7w

* Fest (fixed) – German term for a regular, steady or exclusive performing contract.

** Cover – Understudy on a stand-by basis.

***Mark – To sing softly, rather than full-voice.





julian decker 2

I’ve known Julian Decker for a few years, having first seen him on stage, impressively performing the role of Jean Valjean in a college production of Les Miserables.

Since then, Julian moved to New York City and has worked pretty steadily both regionally and on Broadway, where he is still playing (as of this writing) a featured role in his third musical, Sunset Boulevard.

Along with other young artists, Julian was asked by me to provide some comments on the transition from student to professional. Here are some of his words.

julian Decker 


After Sunset Boulevard closes, I will continue to set goals for myself that drive me, inspire me, and teach me. I know I’ll find more growth as a person and as a performer. After all that is why I do what I do.

My transition to The City after graduating CCM* was trying. It was also filled with blessings. While at CCM my entire world had been turned upside down in the best way possible. The faculty gave me generous opportunities and took a huge risk on me: a frightened youngster who had no insights into the world that he was attempting to be a part of.

CCM changed me as a person. I was surrounded by some of the most brilliant humans I had ever come in contact with, and I couldn’t help but work my butt off. Over four years I grew steadily, and continued to be challenged by my teachers. For the first time in my life I was able to call a single place home. That place was Cincinnati and its College Conservatory of Music.

No one can actually prepare one for the transition into adulthood, especially when one makes the decision to go into a career where one may never get to be on Broadway, let alone be able to pay one’s share of the monthly rent. But I was very lucky in that I had my first NYC audition the Friday after the April Showcase ** and then booked a gig three weeks later. I was about to understudy my dream role, Quasimodo in the US premier of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The downside to that was to make a living while I waited for a show that started rehearsals in September.

Every interview I went on was a success until I said that I had an acting job that I’d be leaving for come September! This was the first time in my life that I didn’t have some sort of schedule. I found myself helping my best friend to create a company that now, three years later is growing rapidly. We got an apartment and began settling down, but at the same time I was finding myself on a downward spiral. I had spent four years in a rigorous training program where I had a schedule each day of the week. In NYC I didn’t. I’d stay out till 4, wake up at 3 and repeat that routine day after day. I began to realize that I was relying on partying and drinking to be happy. I found myself feeling depressed, and I had never felt what depression was like. I had zero idea about how to deal with things other than by drinking and surrounding myself with friends that seemed to bring me happiness. Some days my innate instinct for hustling would kick in, and I’d make great progress and feel good. But the bad days outweighed the good ones.

Navigating all of this and adapting to a completely new environment continued to challenge me. It took about a year and a half, for all of it to pass. I was doing well and then the Hunchback cast found out that the show wouldn’t transfer to Broadway. That was an extremely sad day for all of us. I couldn’t understand how you could spend almost a year of your life working on something so unique and special, with audiences that leaped up to their feet at the end of the shows, and still not be good enough for Broadway. I was doing great work in my auditions but I remained in my depression slump.

It wasn’t until my boss at the company I was working for sat me down and said, What is the deal? You have so much potential…but your heart and determination are lacking, both here and in your art. You need to choose a focus. Make a 1-2-3 LIST in order of importance.

I had to make money so that became my number 1. I had to keep the dream alive while working a job, so that was number 2. My relationship with my beautiful Katie became number 3. The day after the talk with my boss I got another regular job, and on the first day of employment I found out that I had been cast in Les Miz.

I couldn’t believe how it all played out: it was completely unexpected. I had an idea of what it would be like, and it couldn’t have fallen more short of my expectations. I realized that early on, and I allowed myself to focus on learning from the bad experience as opposed to letting it bring me down. I focused on getting my body in shape. I also focused on making positive connections with my colleagues. That paid off because I had never laughed so much in my life. The backstage antics were crazy.

I started to focus on my career as an actor. Whether I got the job or not, it was the process that mattered. I began getting my self worth back. I stayed in Les Miz for 9 months and then had an opportunity to go to work on a new version of Hunchback where I’d be playing Quasimodo this time. It was hard to make a decision because the voice in my head was saying “You’ll never get another Broadway show! You have to stay!” The company was made up of folks that had done Les Miz consistently for 7 years. I knew that I wanted to take control over my career so I said yes to the new gig. A few months later I found myself in Utah.

I grew as an actor. I was bringing ideas that had given me sleepless nights for over a year to my version of Quasimodo! I morphed my body so that I could really dive into the role physically, emotionally, and mentally in 100 degree weather. I loved the journey and it changed me as a person. I started to see the world and my career differently. When I came back to NYC after that contract I felt at home again. Then I was cast in Sunset Boulevard, which will be closing its NYC run in a few weeks.

It has been an incredible experience being in that show. Glenn Close has taught me many valuable lessons not just as a performer but as a human being. She has taught me how to be the leader of a company and how to grace the stage with ease and class. I continue to find growth in everything I do and in every good or bad choice I make. So much in this business is a waiting game. The NO‘s don’t really bother me much anymore because for every no there will be a yes, and as long as I’m doing good work and making the people I love proud, I am proud.

After Sunset Boulevard closes, I will continue to set goals for myself that drive me, inspire me, and teach me. I know I’ll find more growth as a person and as a performer. After all that is why I do what I do.

Julian Decker, actor, vocalist

https://youtu.be/Mu-gKpdlmqQ Julian Decker sings Bring Him Home from Les Miz

* University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music *

* Annual Musical Theatre Showcase held by CCM in NYC for agents and casting directors to see the work of the graduating CCM Musical Theatre class.



A preamble…Recently I reached out to several friends in the arts asking for them to share some thoughts with my readers on the subject of transitioning from Academia to The Real World of Show Business, whether Opera or Regional Theatre or Broadway of the Concert Hall. Among the responses that have come in so far I find John Riddle’s one of the most compelling. Here he is in his own words…

 Be the person that everyone wants to have in their show and rehearsal room

“The transition from college to the professional world is completely dependent on the artist—you are in complete control of your artistic future.  I think this begins with identifying the type of artist you want to be by the time you graduate, so that all of your energy is efficient and focused on achieving your goals. 

 This means that your instrument is in top shape, that you are healthy both physically and mentally for whatever demands are placed on your body, and that you have a point of view about your craft.  

 When I was first starting out, I said yes to any opportunity—concerts, readings, etc.—which opened many doors both artistically and socially. It also opened my eyes to taste and kept my skills sharpened, now that I no longer had the structure of a school setting. 

 After about two years post graduation, I began working regularly in the theater.  Work came because I was prepared—I became very good at auditioning.  The secret:  preparation.  Someone is always going to know the material backwards and forward, and will be able to perform it in the audition room as if it is opening night.

 So that person might as well be you. 

 There is power in being good at auditions. After all, most of us in the theater are simply subjects for professional interviewers, with a performing habit every now and then. 

 So get good at it!! 

 Finally, just become a good person.  I have been in a number of professional shows with actors, directors, designers, etc who are simply not kind.  It would be best if that bad energy were not part of the creative process.   So be the person that everyone wants to have in their show and rehearsal room. 

 Again: preparation, but also respect, professionalism, humor, honesty, and kindness.”  

 John Riddle, actor, vocalist, pianist

John will soon be opening on Broadway in the role of the Prince in Frozen.

From his 2016 cabaret show at Live at Feinstein’s/54 Below Lonely House (Street Scene) – Kurt Weill https://youtu.be/IZcXCgtbVVU

Class – Stephen Sondheim https://youtu.be/rGImrS696x4

Go slow Johnny/Shooting High – Noel Coward/McHugh & Koehler https://youtu.be/dnTPYB0g3cE

The Mermaid” (Great Big Sea) – George Abud  https://youtu.be/hp3eUZqHla0

I didn’t know what time it was – Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart https://youtu.be/pOSLLZYgDr8