A conversation with Evans Mirageas gave us a glimpse into what makes him, now in his seventeenth season at the helm of the Cincinnati Opera, one of the most well liked individuals in the Opera world.
Evans, as he prefers to be called celebrates just having had his contract extended by the Cincinnati
Opera by five more years, and being “tied at the hip” to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, a top-notch philharmonic ensemble that becomes the de-facto deluxe pit orchestra for the Cincinnati Opera during the summer months.
We began by asking him to give us a hint as to what are his repertory plans for the next several seasons. While cautiously not revealing anything that lies outside the eighteen month parameter for announcing repertory and casting, Mirageas spoke enthusiastically about “embracing the tradition” with a long-standing commitment to the popular canon of Verdi, Puccini, and some French Opera.
Along with that artistic philosophy, Mirageas supports the development of new works by American composers, so that the Cincinnati Opera will regularly co-produce with other American opera companies new works that are staged in the intimate Corbett Theatre of Cincinnati’s School for Visual and Performing Arts.
That balance of old and new continues into the 2021-2022 season, when the company will bring back Verdi’s Aida and Puccini’s La boheme, its first Gilbert and Sullivan in over thirty years – The Pirates of Penzance – and two world premieres: William Menefield’s and Sheila Williams’ Fierce, and Castor and Patience, with music by Gregory Spears and a libretto by Tracy K. Smith.
Both Fierce and Castor and Patience deal with the vicissitudes of African-Americans. Both will employ a large number of artists of color in their casts and creative teams.
Evans Mirageas mentioned his wide-ranging interest in operas that speak of the struggles of minority communities and of his desire to identify in the near future one or more works that will celebrate much needed to be told joyful stories that speak of the achievements of the brown and black populations segments of our society.
A self-described “passionate auditioner” Evans Mirageas attends dozens of operatic performances, sits in judges panels for vocal competitions, and keeps a close watch on up and coming opera singers, many of whom he has groomed into larger roles in his company.
Among those is the young tenor Matthew White, who stepped in on very short notice into the title male role of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, scoring a big success a couple of seasons back. White returns this season in the role of Frederic in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance – the first ever G & S in the company’s history.
Nurturing artists is second nature to Mirageas. Baritone Joseph Lattanzi, first impressed as one of the leads in Fellow Travelers, later to return as the Count in The Marriage of Figaro. Like him there are many others, including Morris Robinson, who is remembered from an early appearance as the Night Watchman in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg before a well-earned rise up to major roles, such as Porgy in Porgy and Bess.
Interviewing Evans Mirageas, one of the most respected men in the music business, is as easy as chatting with a like-minded friend – so easy is his manner and so generous is he with his time. For that graciousness we thank him and wish him in operatic tradition “In bocca al lupo.”