Cincinnati Opera Announces 100th Anniversary Season & Programming

Cincinnati Opera Announces 100th Anniversary Season & Programming

Evans Mirageas, The Harry T. Wilks Artistic Director of Cincinnati Opera, today announced a host of programs celebrating the company's upcoming 100th anniversary in 2020, along with repertoire and casting highlights of the 2020 Summer Festival.

Attaining the age of one hundred years is no small feat for any company, but for an opera company it's a truly special achievement after all, opera is the most expensive art form! said Mirageas. It is an honor and a privilege to guide this company artistically into its second century, drawing on both a rich history of magnificent grand opera as well as our decades of presenting new works.

With these events, we are not looking to simply mark the company's milestone we want to celebrate with our community, which has supported and championed Cincinnati Opera for almost a century, said Patricia K. Beggs, The Harry Fath General Director & CEO of the company.

Cincinnati Opera is the second oldest opera company in America, yet displays the artistic vibrancy of one of our newest 'indie' opera companies, said Marc Scorca, President & CEO of Opera America. The program for the 100th anniversary season shows an exciting and balanced commitment to the masterpieces of the inherited repertoire, the artists who will shape the art form in the course of the company's second century, and community programs that embrace the diversity of the city. Like every great organization, Cincinnati Opera honors its rich history and looks to the future in every aspect of its work.

100th Anniversary Programming

Cincinnati Opera will present a yearlong series of events, performances, and programs to celebrate its landmark 100th anniversary. A group of committed volunteers is working to support this programming through the 100th Anniversary Cabinet, co-chaired by Melanie Chavez and Jeannine Winkelmann. The Opera's Community Celebrations committee, presenting a series of public events celebrating 100 years of opera in the community, is chaired by Julie Heard and Dr. Susan Strick. Fundraising activities for the 100th Anniversary are led by the Opera's Presidents Council, chaired by Cathy Crain.

100 Fridays on 90.9 WGUC

In July 2018, Mirageas began leading the march to the Opera's 100th anniversary on his weekly Friday evening broadcast on Classical 90.9 WGUC. Every Friday for 100 weeks, he explores one year in the history of Cincinnati Opera, counting up to the opening of the company's 100th season. Along the way, Mirageas shares recordings of great artists from the illustrious history of the company, excerpts from significant Cincinnati Opera first performances, and occasionally historic live recordings from both the Cincinnati Zoo era (1920-1971) and from Music Hall. Historic anecdotes and facts are drawn from the landmark histories of Cincinnati Opera written by Eldred Thierstein and Charles Parsons. The series continues through June 2020; follow @cincinnatiopera, @909WGUC, and #CincyOpera100 on Twitter for weekly broadcast times and program details.

The 100th anniversary programming will kick off on September 18, 2019, when Cincinnati Opera once again returns to its historic roots at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden to present the 10th annual Back to the Zoo concert in the Wings of Wonder Theater. This fun, free, family-friendly program includes performances of opera and musical theater favorites, memories from the Zoo days, and close encounters with animals. Tickets to this highly anticipated event will become available in summer 2019.

On October 29, 2019, the company presents Stephen Costello in Recital, supported by the The Peter G. Courlas and Nicholas Tsimaras Annual Recital Fund, at Memorial Hall. Costello, a Metropolitan Opera regular who starred in the company's 2010 La Boh me and 2012 La Traviata, will showcase an evening of Bel Canto opera arias in concert.

Longtime general director and CEO of the Opera Patty Beggs will be honored at the annual Opera Gala on November 23, 2019, at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel. The Gala is co-chaired by Alva Jean Crawford, Catharina Toltzis, and Anne Zaring, with honorary co-chairs Harry and Linda Fath and Marc Scorca, President & CEO of Opera America.

In Harmony Community Chorus

Connecting with the community is one of Cincinnati Opera's top strategic priorities as it enters its second century. Since 2006, the company has produced an annual series of Opera Goes to Church concerts in collaboration with local churches, in which resident choirs perform with mainstage opera singers. The experience has been audience-focused, and is hugely popular, with each free concert filled to capacity. The company now seeks to create an impactful experience for the amateur singers in the choirs, with the belief that collaborative art-making will create social bridges across the community. To address that in a tangible way, in spring 2020 it will launch In Harmony, a community chorus of 100 participants, with ten members each from ten diverse organizations.

The company will partner with a mix of churches African American, Latino, and white; conservative and liberal along with other houses of worship, as well as existing community choruses. Participants will commit to a half-day weekend retreat in April 2020, six rehearsals, and six performances over two weekends in June 2020. The retreat will feature trust-building activities led by a professional facilitator, and each rehearsal will feature a social activity.

The culminating performances will take place at community centers, churches, and Cincinnati Music Hall over the course of two weekends. One weekend will feature a daylong tour along the Ohio River, with concerts in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. All programs will be presented free of charge. After the project, participants will be invited to attend a reunion and a dress rehearsal performance at Music Hall. In Harmony is supported by a $75,000 Innovation Grant from Opera America.

Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)

In April 2020, Cincinnati Opera will present the regional premiere of Bryce Dessner's Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), a new work inspired by Dessner's experience of growing up in Cincinnati during protests against an exhibit of the work of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe at the Contemporary Arts Center in 1990. Dessner, a member of the indie rock band The National and founder of the eclectic Cincinnati festival MusicNOW, collaborated with librettist Korde Arrington Tuttle and vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth to explore the ways Mapplethorpe's works compel an audience's complicity and characterizes them in the act of attention. The performance piece, which was co-commissioned by Cincinnati Opera, combines the poetry of Patti Smith and Essex Hemphill with projections of Mapplethorpe's images. The work will be presented at the Taft Theatre in collaboration with the Contemporary Arts Center.

On June 14, 2020, the Opera will once again kick off the season with Opera in the Park, its annual free outdoor concert in Washington Park featuring a selection of opera and musical theater favorites performed by stars from the 2020 season, the Cincinnati Opera Chorus, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Prior to the concert, the public is invited to Opera For All, a Music Hall open house featuring performances and activities for the whole family.

Then, on the opening night of the season, June 18, 2020, the company will present the 100th Anniversary Ball, a celebratory black-tie dinner prior to the performance of The Barber of Seville. The 100th Anniversary Ball is co-chaired by Melanie Chavez and Jeannine Winkelmann.

In conjunction with the meeting of the national Opera America board in Cincinnati, Cincinnati Opera will present Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin, a song cycle about the first woman elected to Congress, by composers Kitty Brazelton, Laura Kaminsky, Laura Karpman, and Ellen Reid, with text by Kimberly Reed, on July 17, 2020. This event is part of the company's Championing Women's Voices initiative.

In addition, Cincinnati Opera will present its usual lineup of community and education programming, including Opera Raps, the 30th annual Community Open Dress Rehearsal, The Opera Express mobile opera theater, the Inside Opera podcast series, performances through the UC Medical Center and Cincinnati Opera Voice Health Partnership, and the 15th annual Opera Goes to Church/Opera Goes to Temple concert series.

2020 Season

Cincinnati Opera will open its 100th anniversary season with Gioachino Rossini's charming comedy The Barber of Seville (June 18 & 20) in Music Hall's Springer Auditorium. Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, a frequent star of the Metropolitan Opera stage, will make her Cincinnati Opera debut as Rosina. After appearing as Tamino and Papageno in the company's 2017 Magic Flute, tenor Aaron Blake and baritone Rodion Pogossov will showcase their comic teamwork as Count Almaviva and Figaro, respectively. Italian conductor Renato Balsadonna returns to conduct following his debut with 2018's La Traviata.

Next, the company will present the world premiere of Fierce (June 24, 25, 26, 27 & 28), part of both the Championing Women's Voices initiative and CO Next: Diverse Voices, an initiative designed to showcase diverse stories and artists. A collaboration with WordPlay Cincy, The Music Resource Center Cincinnati (MRC), and i.imagine, Fierce tells stories inspired by the lives of the teenage girls who helped create it. The libretto is by novelist Sheila Williams, working with participants in WordPlay Cincy's programs, and the music is by composer William Menefield, working with participants in MRC's programs. Teenage girl participants in i.imagine's photography-based educational programs will partner with the Opera on promoting the piece to their peers. D. Lynn Meyers, the producing artistic director of Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, acts as stage director and dramaturg in her company debut. The project was previously announced under the Working Title Girls 2020.

For the first time in its 100-year history, the company will present Anton n Dvo k's Rusalka (July 9 & 11), the beautiful and tragic tale of a love-struck mermaid, sung in the original Czech at Music Hall. British-Swiss soprano Kim-Lillian Strebel, who made her U.S. debut singing Pamina in the company's 2017 production of The Magic Flute, will star in the title role. Slovenian conductor Daniela Candillari will make her company debut leading the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Cincinnati Opera will then present the highly anticipated world premiere opera Castor and Patience (July 16, 18, 22, 24 & 26), at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. With music by Gregory Spears, composer of the company's acclaimed 2016 commission Fellow Travelers, and an original libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, the story is centered on two members of an African American family who find themselves at odds over the fate of a historic parcel of land they have inherited in the American South. Not just the story of a single family or even a particular geography, the work addresses America's warring tensions between reckoning with the hard facts of history and racing blindly forward toward the dream of progress. Soprano Latonia Moore returns to star as Patience following her acclaimed portrayal of Aida in 2013, and bass-baritone Kevin Short makes his company debut as Castor. Frederick Ballentine, Jr. will sing the role of Castor's son, Judah, following roles in The Flying Dutchman (2018) and Porgy and Bess (2019). Kevin Newbury returns to direct following his work on 2016's Fellow Travelers.

The 100th anniversary season will close with the grandest of all operatic masterpieces, Giuseppe Verdi's Aida (July 25, 28, 30 & August 1), at Music Hall. Soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams makes her company debut in the title role, which she has previously sung at The Atlanta Opera and Teatro Massimo di Palermo in Sicily. Italian tenor Marco Berti will sing the role of Radam s, which he has performed at both La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera, in his company debut. Mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller will make her company debut as the jealous princess Amneris. Baritone Reginald Smith, Jr. returns to sing the role of Amonasro following his appearance as Jake in Porgy and Bess (2019). Bass Morris Robinson reprises the role of Ramfis, which he last sang for the company in 2013. Robinson is the company's Artistic Advisor and sings the role of Porgy in Porgy and Bess during the 2019 Summer Festival. Christopher Allen returns to conduct following his previous work on The Magic Flute (2017) and Tosca (2016).

Subscriptions to the 2020 Summer Festival will be available beginning in fall 2019, with single tickets on sale in spring 2020. For more information, visit

Championing Women's Voices Initiative

In 2017, Cincinnati Opera presented its first-ever opera by a female composer with Song from the Uproar by Missy Mazzoli. The following year, the company presented its second, As One by Laura Kaminsky. During its centennial season, Cincinnati Opera will present a series of female-created works under the umbrella of the Championing Women's Voices initiative. These include: the world premiere of Fierce, created by teenage girls from WordPlay and MRC and librettist Sheila Williams, directed by D. Lynn Meyers, with promotional support from the teenage girls from i.imagine; the world premiere of Castor and Patience with a libretto by U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith; and the presentation of Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin, a song cycle by composers Kitty Brazelton, Laura Kaminsky, Laura Karpman, and Ellen Reid, with text by Kimberly Reed. As part of Cincinnati Opera's 100th anniversary, which coincides with the centennial of women's suffrage in the U.S., this initiative celebrates the creativity and power of female artists. It will be supported in perpetuity by the Patricia K. Beggs Fund for Championing Women's Voices.

Patricia K. Beggs Fund for Championing Women's Voices

As announced in March, Patricia K. Beggs, The Harry Fath General Director & CEO, will retire following the company's 2020 season, and the Board of Trustees has established a fund to honor her 35-year career and significant accomplishments. Throughout her career, Beggs has been a champion of artistic excellence, community, diversity, and new works, and has supported the work of female conductors, designers, and directors. Therefore, the focus of the fund is artistic excellence and community engagement, with an emphasis on female creators. The money raised by the fund will be used to showcase the work of established and emerging female creators, including composers, librettists, conductors, and directors, as well as to promote diversity and gender parity in the field.

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