Embracing Cincinnati's Cultural Renaissance
“The Flying Dutchman,” cred. Jeff Roffman, Atlanta Opera
Photo provided by Cincinnati Opera
As Cincinnati Opera embarks on its 98th season, it seems everything old is new again.
The Harry T. Wilks Artistic Director, Evans Mirageas, who has been with the company for 13 years, is awed by the cultural revival and newfound creative energy that has swept through Cincinnati’s historical Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in recent years. “We have nine venues for wonderful popular theater, jazz, orchestra, opera and ballet within two city blocks,” he says. “And the most exciting part is that the rest of the world is waking up to how great Cincinnati is to live, work and take in an incredible culture where we truly support new art.”
Chief among these nine venues, which include a mix of historical restorations and striking modern architecture, sits Music Hall, still sparkling from a recently completed 143 million dollar restoration. “We are so thrilled to be returning to our beloved home,” Mirageas says.
Mirageas has put together a new season that showcases the iconic concert hall’s rebirth, including many behind-the-scenes technical improvements. “Our grand operas, those that fill the concert hall with orchestral music, choirs and rich visuals, will take full advantage of what Music Hall has to offer,” he says. “Our returning patrons will hear and see the improvements, and our new patrons will be amazed.”
Engaging these new patrons is one of the company’s main goals as it enters what Mirageas calls a “new chapter.” “There’s an appetite for more art,” he says, “and we are going to serve that appetite.”
Cincinnati Opera’s 2018 season will include a fifth show, a departure from the last several seasons. As in years past, the season will feature three “grand operas” performed at Music Hall and a more intimate fourth offering at a smaller venue, Corbett Theater at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. The all-new fifth show will take place at Music Hall’s Wilks Studio, a black box theater that seats around 200 audience members.
The season opens June 14 with an audience favorite, Verdi’s “La Traviata,” featuring French soprano Norah Amsellem and Korean tenor Ji-Min Park. Mirageas says this selection will allow core patrons a chance to judge the Music Hall improvements for themselves. “It’s hard to believe that the restoration could have improved the already impressive sound quality inside Music Hall, but it’s true,” he says.
“The Flying Dutchman,” featuring American soprano Marcy Stonikas, Canadian bass-baritone Nathan Berg and American tenor Jay Hunter Morris, opens at Music Hall July 5. This spooky Richard Wagner classic is especially appropriate for Cincinnati audiences and the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in particular because of the area’s deep German roots, still reflected in the architecture and the local culture. Mirageas predicts audiences will marvel at the “great workout” that the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Opera’s partner for 98 years, will undergo during these performances. “This one will really test the sonic limits of the space,” he says.
“Another Brick in the Wall” will round out the grand opera selections for the 2018 season. This much-anticipated production, based on Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” transforms Roger Waters’ original work into an operatic masterpiece. The opera features eight soloists, 48 chorus members and a 70-piece orchestra. Mirageas stresses that this production is not a rock opera. “Waters didn’t want it to be simply transcribed,” he explains. “He wanted the team to take the story of “The Wall,” the words of the songs and song fragments, to create a real opera. There are no guitars, no drums and this is scored for real operatic voices.” The show sold out 10 performances when it premiered last year in Montreal and drew audiences from around the world. Mirageas anticipates Cincinnati audiences will respond with equal enthusiasm.
“The Coronation of Poppea,” an “eye-popping experience” according to Mirageas, opens June 21 in the 750-seat Corbett Theater at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, just around the block from Music Hall. Taken from “real antiquity,” the show tells the tale of Nero and his love affair with Poppea. “The audience gets to be up close and personal here,” Mirageas says. “It’s an ancient story, but it’s sex, drugs, murder, suicide – nothing new under the sun.”
Laura Kaminsky’s “As One,” opens July 25 in the 200-seat Wilks Studio inside Music Hall. This intimate performance will feature an opera scored for just two performers and a string quartet. “As One” tells the story of a transgender writer undergoing transition, with the two singers portraying her both before and after. “This is an example of how art can tackle relevant social topics in today’s world,” Mirageas says. “We know audiences will really resonate with this smaller scale piece.”
Mirageas is hopeful the 2018 season will attract a wide representation of Cincinnati arts lovers, many of whom have been clued in to the cultural reawakening happening here, thanks in part to national media coverage.
“What has begun to happen in the past few years is that our arts organizations have been telling the world about our hipness,” he says. “We get featured nationally on a regular basis in stories that list us as one of the top cities to create art. I am proud and excited to be a part of this movement, which stretches across all of Cincinnati’s arts organizations.”
Cincinnati Opera season subscriptions and single tickets can be purchased online at cincinnatiopera.org or by calling 513.241.2742. The box office is located at Music Hall, 1243 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.