Theresa’s Breasts and Angelica’s Baby


This is a last-minute heads-up from our friends Amy Johnson and Mark Gibson. Amy is a Voice Professor at CCM and Maestro Gibson heads the CCM Philharmonia (the school’s concert orchestra.)

The CCM SUMMER OPERA BOOTCAMP will present an evening of operatic excerpts from Mozart operas. The singers and conductors are two dozen young talents who came to CCM this summer from schools around the country.

Admission is free.

At CCM they undergo an intensive, immersive training in all aspects of the operatic art, including acting, languages, and diction, along with individual coaching sessions with the faculty and guest artists.

THIS SUNDAY, at 4 PM, also at CCM’s Cohen Theatre, the CCM SUMMER OPERA BOOTCAMP will present a double bill of Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Francis Poulenc Les mamelles de Tirésias Theresa’s Breasts in my free-spirited translation!

Admission is free.

The two operas have more than one thing in common. The central character in both is female. In Suor Angelica, the nun who has taken the vows after she bears a child out of wedlock is still in her heart very much a mother. I will not give you a spoiler here but let you hear the aria Senza Mamma (Without a mother) from that opera and one from the Poulenc in the attached links below.

Poulenc, ever the naughty Parisian takes a different tack in his Les mamelles de Tirésias touching light-heartedly on the subjects of right-to-life, motherhood and feminism and using lots and lots of balloons symbolizing boobs.

Puccini – Senza Mamma (SUOR ANGELICA) sung by Renée Fleming –

Poulenc – The waltz from Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tiresias with the composer at the piano in a 1959 recording with Denise Duval singing. and Poulenc himself growling out a couple of phrases. –


Rafael de Acha All About the Arts

A Musical Walk Down Memory Lane

untitledA Musical Walk Down Memory Lane

The good people at Video Artists International ( ) just sent us a set of two DVD’s for reviewing: Virtuoso Violinists, Vols. 1 and 2 (VAI DVD #4595 and #4598).

I was impressed by the diversity of the artists represented and baffled by the realization that quality DVD’s or even CD’s of their work are few and difficult to find.

In volumes 1 and 2, Christian Ferras, Yehudi Menuhin, Nathan Milstein, Henryk Szeryng, Mischa Elman, Michael Rabin, David Oistrakh, Ida Haendel, Joseph Suk and Aaron Rosand are seen and heard playing excerpts by Hubay, Sarasate, Mendelssohn, Paganini, Bach, Kreisler, Janáček and Brahms.

On two different tracks, the Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio plays the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Trio in C Minor, Op.1, No. 3, and the Guarnieri String Quartet plays a movement from Beethoven’s “Quartetto Serioso.”

The quality of the video is generally very good especially when considering that some of these clips are black and white reproductions of kinescopes dating back to the 1960’s.

The sound has been subtly enhanced so that the playing of these violinists can be enjoyed without question.

The accompanying artists range from the Orchestre de Radio-Canada to the Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra, to pianists Robert Koenig and Sviatoslav Richter, among others. They all do their job to satisfaction, allowing the spotlight to shine on the soloists.

Isaac Stern, Christiane Ferras, Yehudi Menuhin, Nathan Milstein, Misha Elman, Joseph Szigeti, Zino Francescatti and Michael Rabin were concertizing when many of us were still in school and had neither the money nor the opportunity to hear great artists in person.

Lucky us that we had the Bell Telephone Hour in the 1960’s and we got to hear these artists in our living rooms.

To evaluate in depth the playing of over a dozen artists in 21 selections is well beyond the scope of this review. To single any out would be a fool’s errand. Suffice for me to say that the title of virtuoso given to these artists in the title of the two DVD set is well deserved.

The names of Isaac Stern and Yehudi Menuhin are more than well known and their discographies extensive. On the other hand, Josef Suk, Ida Haendel, Aaron Rosand and several other colleagues of theirs are more familiar to the connoisseur than to the average listener of classical music. This DVD set is for many an initiation into the art of violin playing.

Having these legendary performers back to back on DVD is a musical treat for any one regardless of age. For anyone fortunate enough to have heard any of them in person, this DVD set constitutes a musical walk down memory lane.

VAI is accumulating an extraordinary library of archival CD’s and DVD’s of Opera, song, instrumental music, and Broadway shows. We look forward to more of their one of a kind offerings.

Rafael de Acha
All About Arts.



Within a couple of weeks the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra begins a new summer season. Leading the orchestra’s Summermusik is conductor Eckart Preu, who begins his tenure with the orchestra this summer.

The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra has been around since 1974. Initially an amateur group, the orchestra became a professional ensemble in 1976. The orchestra’s summer season is compressed into approximately four weeks, during which a variety of events are made available to Cincinnati music lovers.

A chamber orchestra is made up of approximately thirty musicians and it comprises the same instrumental groups as those of the larger symphony orchestras: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. The average symphony orchestra is at least twice the size of the typical chamber orchestra, which equips it to play the larger works of the 19th century by Brahms, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Berlioz and Mahler, where as a chamber orchestra is better suited to play the music of the Baroque and Classical eras by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Mozart and Haydn.

A look at the CCO’s four Saturday evening programs for August shows that Music Director Eckart Preu has a clear vision for the orchestra’s new lease on life. Here’s a preview of the first of four Saturday evening concerts on August 5 at 7:30 pm

Felix Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 (“Scottish”)Mendelssohn found the inspiration to write his Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 (“Scottish”) on a visit to Scotland in 1829. He wrote in his diary: “In the deep twilight we went today to the palace were Queen Mary lived and loved…The chapel below is now roofless. Grass and ivy thrive there and at the broken altar where Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland. Everything is ruined, decayed, and the clear heavens pour in. I think I have found there the beginning of my ‘Scottish’ Symphony.”

Here’s the symphony’s second movement, with Kurt Masur conducting the Gewandhausorchestra: (start at 15:20)

W.A. Mozart Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216
By contrast the Violin Concerto No. 3  is all about sunshine and joy, composed by Mozart when he was nineteen. Angelo Xian Yu will be the featured soloist.

Here is the complete concerto, with Anne Sophie Mutter playing and conducting the Camerata Salzburg:

Peter Maxwell Davies An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise
The wedding of some friends inspired English composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies to write An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, a musically humorous description of a Scottish country wedding where the whisky flows freely and the dancing gets livelier by the minute.

Karen May, Pipe Major of the Caledonian Pipes and Drums Band will be the solo bagpipes player.

CCO Box Office 513.723.1182 x 102



Playwrights who matter: Part Two – Mario Diament

Mario Diament

Mario Diament: A true citizen of the world, a pragmatist, a disillusioned idealist with a deep love for theatre, life, and the arts.

In 1998, Mario proposed to me to have New Theatre do his The Story of Ruth.

The theme hooked me at once. The story, based on Mario’s own family, several members of which never survived the Holocaust, concerns the story of an old woman who wanders into an attic in search of an object she has misplaced. In the process of looking for whatever it is she has lost, she encounters memory after memory from her past, in the persons of former lovers, long-dead relatives, herself as child, young woman, and adult woman.

It was a bold and irresistible concept, and it caught my interest in no time. We closed the season 1999-2000 with Mario’s newly-titled The Book of Ruth. It was the largest cast we had ever employed to date at New Theatre, with ten actors playing over 20 roles on a set that depicted a cramped attic full of old furniture.

It was a critical and audience success. Most importantly, it cemented an artistic mutual-trust between Mario and I that lasts to this day, not to mention a great friendship.

Over the next six years Mario gave us three more great plays. The four plays of Mario’s we did at New Theatre have enjoyed a healthy life after their Florida premieres. Smithereens, Blind Date, The Book of Ruth, Lost Tango all have received European and Argentine productions. Mario is quite prolific, and more plays will surely be coming out of his fertile imagination, as it has already been the case.

Mario’s writing is a rare amalgam with a very strong dose of Jewish irony, gallows humor, and old-world philosophy. Add to that mix  a sassy Argentine sensibility born not far from the riverside bars where the tango was born. All of that coalesces into a style that changes from play to play according to the dramatic requirements at hand.

Mario is a true citizen of the world, a pragmatist, a disillusioned idealist with a deep love for theatre, life, and the arts.

I never have had a better time directing new plays than with Mario’s. Nor have I had better conversations with any other theatre person. I am so lucky to have him for a friend and to have done his work.

Rafael de Acha,

All About The Arts

Playwrights Who Matter: JT Rogers


Playwrights Who Matter: JT Rogers

JT’s writing came to my attention by way of an unsolicited submission from his agent – John Buzzetti – who sent me a copy of White People . The writing immediately appealed to me: politically-charged, muscular, straightforward and ruthlessly honest. In spite of the difficult structure of the play: three separate monologues by three characters using direct-address interconnecting thematically but almost never dramatically, the play and its characters fly off the page, begging to be staged. The character of the woman achieves tragic stature as a victim-come-to-collect from her victimizers. The men – one an unredeemed racist, the other an East Coast liberal college professor – are equally-memorable creations: tragically flawed, conflicted, contradictory.

In Madagascar, oblique intimations of incest and familial betrayal coexist with elegant talk about Roman antiquity and travel, all couched in a dense, complex, uncannily theatrical language. In The Overwhelming, the theme of the Holocaust of an African nation is taken on unflinchingly, along with an insightful examination of our American culpability and the cruel, clueless crass attitude towards the debacle of the contemporary third world that permeating our think tanks.

JT has the courage to write about the unpalatable. His courage pays off in the long run, as witness his Madagascar, which won the coveted Osborne Prize from the American Theatre Critics Association, and his The Overwhelming, picked up for a production and a tour of Great Britain by the National Theatre, no less.

Most recently, JT won the Tony Award for Best Play for Oslo, which has gone on to pre-production and casting at the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain.

JT’s day is here, finally. With a young family to support, this could not happen to a more deserving, more valiant man of the theatre.

Rafael de Acha

Rafael Music NotesAll About the Arts


My review of The Magic Flute for Seen and Heard-International

United States Mozart, The Magic Flute: Soloists, Cincinnati Opera. Aronoff Centre, Cincinnati, OH. 15.7.2017. (RDA)
The Magic Flute’ (c) Cincinnati Opera
Kim-Lillian Strebel – Pamina
Jeni Houser – Queen of the Night
Aaron Blake – Tamino
Rodion Pogossov – Papageno
Tom McNichols – Sarastro/Speaker
Conductor – Christopher Allen
Stage Director – Daniel Ellis
Production Designers – Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky
Animations – Paul Barritt
Set and Costume Designer – Esther Bialas
Lighting Designer – Thomas C. Hase
Wigs and Make-up Designer: James Geier

Mozart wrote The Magic Flute for his friend, comedian and theatre producer Emmanuel Schikaneder, who wrote its libretto and a good part for himself. He then put it on on the rickety stage of his ramshackle theatre in a suburb of Vienna. There the common folks could come and enjoy a show for little money with one of their favorite stage stars.

While Schikaneder, a genius of comic invention, went mostly for laughs, Mozart combined the antics of Papageno’s search for his ideal mate on the same stage with Tamino’s search for Pamina. In Barrie Kosky’s feverish dream of a production for the Cincinnati Opera, the serious and the comical are perfectly combined, producing sheer enchantment for both the conservative opera fan and the newbie.

The story is both preposterously complex and funny. Tamino encounters a giant snake in the woods, is swallowed whole, but is saved from its digestive tract by three ladies who are employed by The Queen of the Night, mother of Pamina, who has been kidnapped for her own good by Sarastro, spiritual leader of the Masonic Temple of Wisdom, here comically dressed in a black frogcoat and stovepipe hat.
Tamino is shown a picture of Pamina and is instantly smitten by her beauty. At the behest of the Queen of the Night, the young Prince sets off on a quest to rescue the young Princess, armed with a magic flute. Accompanying him, the bird catcher Papageno, who has magic bells.

In the end, everyone gets what they deserve: Papageno finds his Papagena, Tamino and Pamina are finally united, and the Queen of the Night, her attending ladies, and her Nosferatu look-alike, Monostatos, are engulfed in flames.

Jeni Houser, as the Queen of the Night and Kim-Lillian Strebel as Pamina provided several of the evening’s highlights with their arias. Houser sang with accuracy, fearlesly checking off the abundance of dreaded high F’s above the staff.
Strebel sang sumptuously in her aria and in her suicide scene, and looked every inch a Princess. Aaron Blake was an ideal Tamino, cutting a handsome figure and excelling in the Bildniss aria. Rodion Pogossov was comical, fleet-footed, and vocally and musically satisfying as Papageno. Tom McNichols, doing double-duty as the Speaker and Sarastro was effective, though lighter of voice than the profundo basses who usually sing this role.

Christopher Allen crafted a note-perfect performance that began with a superb overture. He worked well with the singers, and led the orchestra throughout with an attentive ear for the stage and a keen eye for the complex visuals – and the tricky cueing that goes along with them.

Saturday’s capacity audience was elated at the end of this Flute. Both Mozart and his librettist would have been very pleased.

Rafael de Acha

PREVIEWING Missy Mazzoli’s Songs from the Uproar

isabelle-eberhardt-portraits“Here where footprints erase the graves a tranquil heart is mine. Here where footprints erase the graves these hours are no more than moments of light in this blanket of blazing stars” sings Isabelle Eberhardt, the central character and protagonist of Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar: the lives and deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt.

She sings about the immensity and timelessness of the Algerian desert that harshly forged her mature persona and of her upbringing in the safety of a Swiss home. She sings of the vast expanse whereupon human footsteps are quickly obliterated by the endless shifting of sands: a desert where time stands still and hours go by like minutes.

It is the desert where Isabelle Eberhardt went to live and where she died an untimely death. Mazzoli’s work tells the story of Isabelle Eberhardt, one-of-a-kind Swiss-born explorer, world traveler, cross-dresser, Sufi Muslim.

It is futile to categorize this boundary-breaking piece of musical theatre. Let’s offer a salute to Ixi Chen’s concert:nova for her daring in programing this piece in Cincinnati under the aegis of the Cincinnati Opera.

Like much of the music and text of Mazzoli’s work, Song from the Uproar is defined by one’s visceral reaction to it. Mine, just having listened to a trailer and several excerpts prior to attending a full performance of this composer/poet is to encourage all those who can to go see it.

Song from the Uproar is now on stage on July 17, 18, 19, 21 7:30 the Aronoff’s “black box” space.

Rafael de Acha                                                                                                       All About the Arts

Here and there in Cincinnati this week

Here and there in Cincinnati this week

* On Saturday, the imported, important and inventive Berlin Komische Oper production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute opens at the Aronoff: the third offering of our Cincinnati Opera this summer and there it settles for a four-performance run.

The principal singers are fresh young voices, such as Rodion Pogossov, the Marcello of the recent Cincinnati La boheme.

In a variety of supporting roles, several recent CCM graduates join the roster of international pros, among them, Alexandra Schoeny, Amber Frasquelle, Jasmine Habersham, Paulina Villareal, Ashley Fabian, Abigail Hoyt, Brandon Scott Russell, and Jacob Kincaide.

For further information and tickets go to:
Here’s a teaser:


* Think of Mozart as desert or, if you do not like sweets, as an appetizer. On Sunday you can have the main course if you go to the Kenwood Theatre and take in a tale about an ambitious politician who plunges his nation into chaos.

In case you were wondering, I am talking about Shakespeare’s Macbeth in a stage production of Canada’s Stratford Festival filmed last year.

See you at the theatre.

Rafael de Acha
All about the arts



As I wrote in my previous post on the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s Summermusik, 2017, tickets are selling fast…so fast, in fact, that two of their special concerts are already sold out. So, trust me, now’s the time to firm up your plans and grab a couple of tickets by calling 513- 723 1182

Royal Strings Sunday, August 6 at 4 pm at the Hotel Covington

At the elegant Hotel Covington, the string section of the CCO and violinist Angelo Xiang Yu join forces under the leadership of maestro Eckart Preu to play music by Mendelssohn, Handel, Halvorsen, Haydn, Paganini, Elgar and Johann Strauss, Sr.


Death by Chocolate Friday, August 11 at 7:30pm at the Cabaret at Below Zero

A string quartet made up of members of the CCO will play spiritually soul searching selections by Robert Lowry, Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Schubert and Leonard Cohen.

Chamber Crawl Tuesday, August 15 at 7:30pm at 

The brass and percussion section principals of the CCO will play music from across five centuries, ranging from a lively Suite of Dances by Renaissance composer Claude Gervaise to a jazz-infused Dance Suite by Leonard Bernstein, just in time for his 100th Anniversary.


Winds on the Seine Friday, August 18 at 7:30pm at the Sanctuary in Newport

If you come to the Sanctuary to hear the top-notch wind section of the CCO, you will imagine you are in Paris as you sip a glass of wine and listen to music by Ibert, Ravel, Bizet, Rameau, Milhaud, and Debussy.


Summer of Love Friday, August 25 at 7:30pm at The Redmoor in Mt. Lookout

The CCO’s principal viola, Heidi Yenney is joined by rock guitarist Roger Klug and pianist Alon Goldstein in a walk down memory lane with music by artists that defined a certain moment in time, including The Doors, Grateful Dead, The Turtles and Jefferson Airplane.

Rafael de Acha

RafaelMusicNotes. com

All about the arts