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 – a four-part post: JT Rogers


Playwrights Who Matter – a four-part post: 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




Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra Flying High

After a long stretch of lying low, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra revved up its


engines just under a year ago. It took our little orchestra that could no time to start flying high and to prove itself an indispensable member of the Cincinnati arts community.

Here they are again, in their first season under maestro Eckart Preu, comfortably ensconced in the Corbett Theatre at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts downtown for four of their main concerts, and all over the map of Cincinnati and Covington for their series of free outdoor concerts, their intimate Little Afternoon Music series and their kick-back evening Pub Crawls.

The CCO’s calendar is so densely packed in its month-long schedule of musical things to do during Cincinnati’s dog days of summer that I am breaking it down into a two-part post.

Trust that I mean to be thorough and accurate, but just to make sure, do check their website:

A word to the wise: their tickets are more than reasonably priced at $30 for general admission, $10 for kids. But they go fast. Plan diligently and get your tickets before the event you want to go to is sold out.

The Essential Information:
THE SCHOOL FOR CREATIVE & PERFORMING ARTS – 108 W. Central Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. Easy free parking.
PRELUDE TALKS: always at 6:45 pm
TICKETS: $25 / $10 kids
CALL: 513.723.1182

Scottish Landscapes
Sat, August 5 7:30 pm Cincinnati School for Creative & Performing Arts

Felix Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 (“Scottish”)
W.A. Mozart Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216
Angelo Xiang Yu, violin
Peter Maxwell Davies An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise
Karen May, bagpipes

I like the Mendelssohn-Davies pairing of Scotland-inspired compositions and the inclusion of the Mozart G Major violin concerto as a refresher in between the two.

The young Angelo Xiang Yu is a violinist to sit up for and take notice. And after hearing many beefed up performances of the Mendelsohn and the Mozart it will be nice to hear the leaner and meaner forces of the CCO bring out the clarity and crispness for which these works cry out.

My only regret is that I will be out of town for this and their next concert, so I will depend on my readers’ feed back when I get back. Comments, please!
ran dank

Celestial Voyage
Sat, August 12 7:30 pm Cincinnati School for Creative & Performing Arts

Rebel – Le Chaos from Les Élémens
Hans-Peter Preu – Kepler’s Cosmos
Dean Regas, commentator
Saint-Saëns – Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22
Ran Dank, piano
Mozart – Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (“Jupiter”)
David Bowie, arr. Scot Woolley – Space Oddity

Music Director Eckart Preu is proving himself an imaginative programmer of musical fare with this astronomical assembly that reaches back to the French Baroque and travels across the galaxies to land on planet Earth with David Bowie’s Space Oditty.

Cincinnati musical treasure Ran Dank is a fit candidate to take on the mammoth Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto no. 2 and wrestle it into submission.

Venetian Madcap Musica
Sat, August 19 7:30 pm Cincinnati School for Creative & Performing Arts

Albinoni/Giazotto – Adagio in G Minor
Gabrieli – Canzon quarta
Monteverdi – L’Orfeo: Sinfonie e Ritornelli
Vivaldi – Concerto No. 3 in G Major for violin and strings
Gustav Mahler – Adagietto: Symphony No. 5
Stravinsky – Pulcinella Suite
Madcap Puppets, puppetry

Venice rivaled all other European cities with its musical and visual arts in the 17th and 18th centuries, and as proof of that the CCO offers up a moveable feast of Baroque and Classical Venetian gems in the first half of this concert that will then jump then forward in its second half to the post-Romantic and Modern eras with a little taste of Mahler and a full serving of Stravinsky . And Madcap Puppets will help the story of Pulcinella.

Immortal Beloved
Sat, August 26 7:30pm Cincinnati School for Creative & Performing Arts
Philip Glass – III. quarter-note = 112 from Symphony No. 3
MamLuft&Co. Dance, dancers

Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor
Alon Goldstein, piano
Silvestrov – The Messenger
Alon Goldstein, piano        MamLuft&Co. Dance, dancers
Beethoven – Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93

It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. And, for a big finish to its 2017 line up, the CCO brings out the big guns in a concert of music from across three centuries. The 8th is one of Beethoven’s happier symphonies, the D Minor yet another sunny composition by Mozart to be played this time by the superb Israeli pianist Alon Goldstein.

The Philip Glass an intriguing choice, and the Silvestrov a world premiere made all the more important by the original choreography of MamLuft&Co. Dance, the superb Cincinnati born and bred modern dance company which will also dance to the music of Philip Glass’s III. quarter-note = 112 .
The Essential Information:
THE SCHOOL FOR CREATIVE & PERFORMING ARTS – 108 W. Central Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. Easy free parking.
PRELUDE TALKS: always at 6:45 pm
TICKETS: $25 / $10 kids
CALL: 513.723.1182
Rafael de Acha
All about the Arts



isabelle-eberhardt-portraitsIsabelle Eberhardt, Swiss-born explorer, world traveler, cross-dresser, Sufi Muslim….

Song from the Uproar is a joint effort between the Cincinnati Opera and concert:nova on stage at the Aronoff from the 17th through the 21st of this month.

With music by Missy Mazzoli and libretto by Royce Vavrek, mezzo-soprano Abigail Fisher in the title role, an ensemble that encompasses singers Melissa Harvey, Emma Sorenson, Benjamin Lee and Olusola Fadiran and concert:nova instrumentalists Ron Aufmann, Randy Bowman, Ric Hordinski, Julie Spangler, and Matt Zory, led by Keitaro Hirada, this promises to be an important musical event.

The music-theatre piece tells in a series of vignettes the life story and exploits of the mysterious Swiss woman Isabelle Eberhardt.


Rafael de Acha


boyd meets girl

In their latest CD, Rupert Boyd pairs up his guitar to the cello of Laura Metcalf. It is a musical match made in Heaven.

Reflexões No. 6 by Bolivian-born composer Jaime Zenamon is a three-part miniature for cello and guitar that announces its South American provenance in the first few bars of its first movement. Boyd and Metcalf play it with gusto and flair. Gabriel Faure’s Pavane. Op. 50 is next and played elegantly:

Boyd and Metcalf are purposeful musicians ideally equipped to tackle the severe intricacies of J.S. Bach’s two-part inventions, nos. 6, 8, 10 and 13. Originally written for the keyboard, the inventions are here divided up (left hand to the guitar, right hand to the cello) with unexpectedly felicitous sonorities.

Aratura Arioso, a work adapted by Australian composer Ross Edwards from his own concerto for guitar, is a a calmly evocative piece, sensitively delivered here by the Boyd-Metcalf duo.

A lively South American composition, Allegretto Comodo, by Brazilian composer, Radames Gnattali again evidences the artists’ penchant for the music of the Southern Hemisphere. It is later followed on the CD by Cafe 1930, a plangently moody piece by Astor Piazzolla.

I have heard the Siete Canciones Populares Españolas by Manuel de Falla played by any number of instrumental combinations in quite a variety of arrangements, and I was sure I was not going to like once more the absence of the lyrics De Falla assigned to what is essentially a set of folk songs.

But, as I listened to Boyd and Metcalf, I was won over by their way with the music and ended up immensely enjoying the seven songs that make up the little cycle.

Arvo Pärt ‘s Spiegel im Spiegel takes the duo far afield from their largely Romantic recital. It is a deceivingly simple composition based on a series of ascending and descending figures taken up by the solo cello while the guitar accompanies it with arpeggio chords. The overall effect is hauntingly hypnotic.

The album ends with Michael Jackson’s Human Nature. It is not the sort of composition one would expect to keep company with Bach, de Falla et al, but he Boyd-Metcalf duo accords it the same impeccable treatment that it gives to the rest of the music in the album.

The album (SONO LUMINUS DSL-92217) has been neatly packaged, accompanied by insightful notes by both the artists, and flawlessly engineered by Daniel Shores.