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Cincinnati Opera closes season with
‘fiery’ Carmen

Cincinnati Opera closed its Spanish season with one of the most popular operas in the repertory, Bizet’s Carmen. While many opera goers say “not another Carmen,” the loyal Cincinnati audience reacts quite differently. Opening night was sold out to the walls of Music Hall.

There is a special wizardry at Cincinnati Opera. This season has surpassed every imaginable desire. I call it a dream season. A lilting and lyrical Marriage of Figaro was the opener. Next, a pure and beautiful Don Carlo lifted your reviewer and the audience into flights of fervent enthusiasm. This was followed by the season’s “new opera,” the Spanish drama, Ainadamar, which introduced the opera, composer and subject in a complete triumph.

What were Artistic Director Evans Mirageas and his gifted staff to do to end the season in grand style? The answer was to assemble another great cast of excellent voices, a great conductor and stage director to put their own passions into this most passionate and tragic love story.

The métier of Cincinnati Opera has been to “grab its audiences” immediately. The opening of each opera captures and intensifies the viewer’s appetite for what is to follow. For Carmen, the debut of Romanian soprano Ruxandra Donose was most unique.

During the overture, dramatic lighting picked out this attractive young woman on a balcony moving her arms like a ballerina. Suddenly, the lighting focused on a long line of uniformed statues until the scrim lifted and the lighting colors changed them into handsome 18th century flesh and blood soldiers.

From that moment on, the captivated audience watched the reality of the opera played on four stunning sets, but never lost the realization that this was opera – the great theater of grand opera – at its best.

In rapid progression, soldiers, townsmen children and the infamous “cigarette girls” filled the stage under the choreography of Stage Director Mark Streshinsky and Victoria Morgan. The orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Andreas Delfs, played beautifully.

By the time the characters were spinning the story line, we were all in a Spain of make-believe ready to be enthralled by the drama and its tragic ending. As the lover Don José, handsome American tenor William Burden made female hearts throb in his debut. His was “the voice of the evening.”

His home-town girl Micaela was sung by lovely American soprano Sandra Lopez, also in debut. The immediate chemistry between the two lovers and their hesitant exchange of kisses supposedly sent by Don José’s mother was enthralling.

Carmen and her fiery gypsy wiles begin the tragedy. In the famous “Habanera” she avows that her love must be free as a bird. She entices all the men but focuses on Don José, throwing her famous rose at him like one of Cupid’s arrows. Vocally, Ms. Donose was more an ensemble Carmen. She did not dominate the stage but blended with the magnificent choruses - men, women and children - who added so much to the excitement of the opera.

The moment the rose hit its target, Don José’s fate was sealed. A pawn to his passion, he was unable to return to his devoted love and to his duties. The opera was performed in its original Opéra Comique version with spoken dialogue. This was revised to include recitatives, grand opera style, written after Bizet’s death by Ernest Guiraud. The dialogue, especially in this crisp and clear reading, does so much to complete the characters.

The spoken words illuminate the personalities and antics of Carmen’s four accomplices. Amita Prakash, Elizabeth Pojanowski and Ric Furman, all part of the young artist’s program, and the ever versatile Steven Cole sang with thrilling perfection

Their combined élan and the lighthearted approach, even in the tragic card scene, gave the opera that special “zing.” There was plenty of that “zing” in the fight scenes and in the fierce exchanges between Carmen and Don José.

And there must be the handsome toreador. Met regular Baritone Dwane Croft was exactly that. Bold and handsome, he used his machismo to make the Toreador scene vibrate with the help of the chorus.

The drama moved smoothly to its inevitable tragic conclusion. In the final scene, set before the bull ring in Granada, the panoply was wonderfully done. Instead of the usual procession of supernumeraries dressed as bull fighters, the matadors were dancers, clad in marvelous “suits of lights.” They danced with verve and elegance to presage the ultimate tragic ending.

Carmen is now the magnificently dressed paramour of the hero Escamillo, the toreador. She is warned that Don José, rejected and estranged, is in the area. As the cards foretold, death was the lover’s portion. Carmen would never waver from her true self to avoid even the icy hand of death.

It was this death scene, acted and sung with elegant conviction by Don José and Carmen, which closed the opera and one of the most magnificent seasons of any opera company anywhere.

If you missed any of these productions, there is always next year. It is Cincinnati Opera’s 90th birthday! You won’t be able to resist a fabulous “Meistersinger” with James Levine on the podium, Otello, La Bohème and a star-studded Gala. Why not assuage your guilt and disappointment by calling 513 241 2742 and be the first subscriber for next season. OK, you can tell them that Burt sent you.

Butterfly Festival slated Aug. 2

Families are invited to walk, run, drive or flutter down to Ohio’s original native Butterfly House at Cox Arboretum MetroPark for the 10th annual Butterfly Festival. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2. Admission is free to this open-air exhibit, which will display butterflies, moths and caterpillars native to the region. Participants will get an up-close view of the various species in all stages of metamorphosis.

In addition to tours of the Butterfly House, the festival features a variety of activities: • Children’s games and hands-on activities • Live music • Artisan’s gallery • Food merchants • Children’s butterfly ballroom • Butterfly buggy tours.

For more information on the Butterfly Festival, call (937) 434-9005 or visit Cox Arboretum MetroPark is a landscape arboretum that offers gardening, nature and horticulture to visitors of all ages and backgrounds. Featuring 189 acres of specialty gardens, woodlands, prairies and other natural areas, Cox Arboretum offers a unique outdoor learning and recreational experience. Educational programming, centered on plants, trees, wildlife and the conservation sciences, is offered for all ages.

Giving Strings concert Aug. 8

St. Vincent DePaul this year’s recipient

The Giving Strings Orchestra’s annual charity concert is coming up soon again, and this year will be the tenth year of this Oakwood tradition. Over the years, Giving Strings has given to many charities. In the past, they have donated money to the Food Bank, Daybreak, the Martha Fram fund at Dayton Children’s Hospital for cystic fibrosis, Project Read, and various other charities.

This year the money raised will be given to the St. Vincent de Paul District Council, which is an organization that helps homeless and impoverished families in many different ways. Specifically, the money will be given to the Transitional Housing program, which is a facet of St. Vincent’s that provides an educational and residential support program for homeless women and families. Those in this program are drug and alcohol-free and committed to becoming self-sufficient and achieving permanent housing on their own. St. Vincent’s coaches the participants towards reaching these goals. It is a fantastic organization that has helped many people out. Also, there’s been a heavy influx in applicants due to the economy.

The concert will be held on Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. at Shafor Park, so please come to enjoy an evening of light classical music and help others by making your contribution.

Attention all Giving Strings Musicians: The Giving Strings music is available for pickup at 158 E. Dixon Ave (one block south of Shafor Park). Anyone wishing to be a part of the orchestra should pick up a part, which is available any time. Some pieces of interest on the program include Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto in D, and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The rehearsal is on Friday, Aug.7 at 7 p.m. at Christ United Methodist Church, 3440 Shroyer Rd., Kettering, and the concert is on Saturday, Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. at Shafor Park in Oakwood.

Art on the Lawn Aug. 8

The Village Artisans of Yellow Springs, Ohio, will be presenting its 27th annual Art On The Lawn art show on Aug. 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The popular outdoor arts and crafts show is held each year under the shade trees of Mills Lawn; Elementary School, one block west of Xenia Ave. (St. Rt. 68) in the village.

The Village Artisans is one of the oldest arts cooperatives in the Miami Valley, featuring fine ands and crafts from artists living and working in this area of Ohio, as well as from Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Established in 1983, Village Artisans has provided Yellow Springs with quality handmade art work in very diverse mediums and styles.

Call for Entries...

DSPS Contemporary/ Abstract Art Show

The Dayton Society of Painters & Sculptors (DSPS) is calling for entries into a juried show of contemporary and non-objective abstract art. This is DSPS’s first open competition featuring stylized and non-objective artists. Cash prizes will be awarded. The judge is Peter Gooch, a University of Dayton painting professor.

Maximum size is 48 x 36 inches, all media. Early entry fee is $12 each up to three works. Applications for show should include two (2) 3x4” cards for each work entered with artist’s name, name of work, size, media and price. Send check made out to DSPS by Aug. 14 to Terry Hitt, 1718 Beaverbrook Dr. Beavercreek Ohio, 45432.


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July 28, 2009
Volume 18, No. 30

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