At the end of December, Best of the Year lists pile up and get lost in the shuffle of Holiday activity. At the end of the arbitrarily labeled September-May period that some call “The Season”, the first four months often go ignored and all praise is heaped on the dog days of winter that here in the Midwest can drag on into May.
Then summer seasons often go neglected and fall into a no-person’s land, even when they have outstanding highlights to be remembered.
Here then, in random order goes my very personal, very subjective, very much about vocal music, very short list of the BEST OF THE SEASON (that word again) that ran in Cincinnati from September of last year until now. The upcoming summer stuff will be covered in whatever reviews I can write when in town.
Past that, I’ll do a summary of my memories of the rest of 2017, including the long-awaited re-opening of Music Hall.
One more thing, when you spot some glaring omissions, please forgive my limited ability to get out to things this past year due to health issues now thankfully behind me.
- The arrival in Cincinnati of Cincinnati Song Initiative. The brainchild of pianist Samuel Martin, this newly-minted, flawlessly-curated concert series set out to concentrate on piano-vocal offerings of the neglected Art Song repertoire in various venues around Cincinnati. We managed to attend one event that featured, among other fine artists, the extraordinary soprano Shareese Arnold performing American Art Songs with exquisite artistry and solid vocalism.
- The MET HD movie screen presentations and Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts continue to remind us all that great singing is alive and well in America in the throats and hearts of American singers, many at the start of their careers. Case in point, soprano Amber Wagner who stepped out from the supporting role singers section in the MET’s Rolodex to sing a formidable Senta in the recent Flying Dutchman.
- Not at the MET. Not just yet. The young undergraduates who took on Britten’s vocally “easy, musically complex Albert Herring in Kenneth Shaw and Amy Johnson’s lovely production for Opera D’Arte in February at CCM stunned us by their similarity to the mature artists who premiered this little gem of an opera in 1947. As the old saw goes: “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
- The Musical Theatre Showcase at CCM featured a graduating class of CCM triple threat stars in the making. When it was repeated in NYC later in April, one was again reminded that CCM is without question the greatest training center of singing-dancing-acting talents that continue to fill spots in the casts of Broadway shows barely weeks after graduation.
- In that musical-theatrical ballpark, Aubrey Berg’s production of Mack and Mabel turned a second-tier Jerry Herman opus into memorable theatrical art.
Rafael de Acha