Constella Festival 2017: new faces, new venues, same creative edge

David Donnelly and Tatiana Berman with daughter Alina Photo by Heath Saunders

David Donnelly and Tatiana Berman with daughter Alina
Photo by Heath Saunders

By Thom Mariner

The sixth annual Constella Festival focuses on intimate performances and explores several new, nontraditional venues.

This year’s festival is scaled back slightly because of ongoing work on the Cincinnati Renaissance Project, a video portrait of the current cultural renaissance.

Tatiana Berman, founder and violinist, shared some insights regarding the performances…


March 18, 8 p.m. “Everybody Loves Opera.” Covenant First Presbyterian Church, 717 Elm St., downtown

This is a rare chance to hear operatic arias and duets “up close and personal,” said Berman. Award-winning soprano Jessica Rivera, who performed at the 2013 Constella Festival, is well-known to Cincinnati Opera fans for “Ainadamar” (2009) and “The Flowering Tree” (2011). She’ll return this summer in Puccini’s “La Bohème.” Tenor Scott Wyatt, who now resides in Cincinnati, is a close friend and collaborator of Rivera’s, with an extensive resume of performances around the world. Pianist Lydia Brown joined the opera faculty at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2014. As with many Constella performances, a thematically related art exhibit will be on display that evening.


Dan Tepfer

Dan Tepfer

March 19, 4 p.m. “Piano 2.0: Melding of Man and Machine,” Dan Tepfer, piano. New Riff Distillery, 24 Distillery Way, Newport

Tepfer was born in Paris to American parents. Classically trained, he is also a gifted improviser, as comfortable in jazz as with the classics. He continues to explore genres and styles through his live improvisations with computer algorithms. As might be expected in this venue, the art of the cocktail will be part of the evening’s experience. Bold, new music in a bold, contemporary space.


March 23, 8 p.m. “From Russia with Love.” Gallery 708, 708 Walnut St., downtown

Violinist Berman collaborates with filmmaker David Donnelly for a hybrid film-concert experience exploring what Berman calls the “rocky” relationship between the U.S. and Russia, in light of the current political climate. Five short films, featuring found footage, news clips and visual effects, are interlaced with musical performances. 


March 24, 8 p.m. “Luminous Dance.” Harriet Tubman Theater, Freedom Center, The Banks

This performance is in conjunction with the opening of “Mandela: The Journey to Ubuntu,” a new exhibit at the Freedom Center. It features world-premiere choreography by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and Cincinnati’s MamLuft Dance Co., to music by John Coltrane and local composer Sean Simon. Visual projections will accompany the dance, with a post-event party at the new Taste of Belgium, across the street.


March 25, 1 p.m. Constella for Kids, The Unmuseum, Contemporary Arts Center, 44 E. Sixth St., downtown

Continuing its commitment to educational experiences, Constella partners with the CAC in this original program. Devised by pianist Jonathan Carlisle and featuring narrator Gabriela Madenia, “Beethoven and His Magic Box” takes children through musical time travel, calling on them to use their ears to help Beethoven find his magic box.


March 25, 8 p.m. Duo Scofano / Minetti. Gallery 708, downtown

Duo Scofano / Minetti, bandoneon and piano, performs a musical style known as chamamé, a regional offshoot of tango from northeast Argentina. The duo will be joined by Berman and bassist Jeff Green for additional works by Piazzolla and more. Then, to celebrate the festival conclusion, the dancing begins, so be ready to join in. The ticket price includes food and wine. Tango!

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