MUST-SEE: Cincinnati’s best performing arts: Autumn 2017

THEATER & DANCE

– By David Lyman

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company – “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

How could any theater lover not have this on the fall must-see list? Not only is this one of William Shakespeare’s most beloved plays, it is CincyShakes’ first production in its new $17.5 million theater at the corner of Elm and West 12th streets. Shakespeare’s script is lovely and fanciful; the theater is bright and airy. And producing artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips has filled the cast with a “who’s who” of CincyShakes stalwarts. What’s not to love? Sept. 8-30. Otto M. Budig Theater, Over-the-Rhine. cincyshakes.com

Cincinnati Ballet – “The Kaplan New Works Series”

The Ballet’s new season is chock-full of intriguing choreography. But there are few programs I look forward to as much as “New Works.” As the name suggests, the pieces are mostly premieres. Some are edgy, others languid. Or sassy. Or . . . well, you just never know what you’re going to get. This year’s program has choreography by Travis Wall (best known for his work on “So You Think You Can Dance”), Dancefix founder Heather Britt, ballet master Johanna Bernstein Wilt, Penny Saunders (Hubbard Street Dance Chicago) and Ballet artistic director Victoria Morgan. Sept. 14-24. Jarson-Kaplan Theater/Aronoff Center, downtown. cballet.org

Contemporary Arts Center – “Corbeaux”

"Corbeaux"

“Corbeaux”

Choreographer/director Bouchra Ouizguen was born in Ouarzazate, a city in central Morocco perched on the edge of the Sahara. Like the area where she was raised, much of Ouizguen’s work is spare and stark. This piece – the title translates as “crows” – premiered in Marrakesh’s central train station in 2014. Since then, “Corbeaux” has toured the world, bringing together a core of Ouizguen’s dancers – all female – with groups of local women. That will be the case when the work is performed here, as well. One performance will take place in the Contemporary Arts Center, the other two in venues to be named later. All three are free. This is the opening presentation of CAC’s Black Box Performance Series. Sept. 16-17. CAC, downtown. contemporaryartscenter.org

Playhouse in the Park – “Mr. Joy”

"Mr. Joy"

“Mr. Joy”

There are oodles of characters in Dayton native Daniel Beaty’s play. But just one actor plays them all, from the 11-year-old girl who narrates the show to her elderly grandmother, from a homeless artist to a transsexual flight attendant. The story revolves around a beloved Chinese shopkeeper in Harlem who has been attacked and is near death. But rather than focus on the tragedy, Beaty chooses to regale us with tales of Mr. Joy’s life. Sept. 28-Oct. 22; previews begin Sept. 23. Thompson Shelterhouse/Playhouse in the Park, Eden Park. cincyplay.com

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati – “This Random World”

In much the way CincyShakes has built itself a game-changing new home, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati has reimagined the spaces in and around its Vine Street theater. The sense of excitement and energy surrounding this new season is palpable. And what better way for ETC to launch its 30th season on Vine Street than with a powerful and optimistic play by Steven Dietz directed by the theater’s longtime artistic director, D. Lynn Meyers? Oct. 11-Nov. 4; preview Oct. 10. Ensemble Theatre, Over-the-Rhine. ensemblecincinnati.org

Know Theatre – “13 Dead Dreams of Eugene”

“13 Dead Dreams of Eugene”

“13 Dead Dreams of Eugene”

As is often the case with productions created by Paul Strickland and Erika Kate MacDonald, there is some truth in the tale of “Eugene,” the name bestowed on a man whose body was found beside a lonely road in Sabina, Ohio, in 1929. No one ever identified him or claimed his body, though thousands of people viewed the embalmed corpse in the 35 years between his death and his burial. But those are just the facts. For Strickland and MacDonald, the “truth” is just the jumping-off spot. Oct. 20-Nov. 14. Know Theatre, Over-the-Rhine. knowtheatre.com


MUSIC & OPERA

– By Ray Cooklis

Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Opera

Music Hall

Music Hall

Any overview of Cincinnati’s fall musical highlights must begin with the elephant in the room: the reopening of the city’s performing arts jewel, Music Hall, after an extensive, sometimes controversial $135 million renovation. Grand Reopening concerts in October will be the perfect time for music lovers to see and judge for themselves the results of the long-awaited rehab, from the acoustics to the seating to the ease of access, amenities and more.

The first event is an Oct. 6-7 Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra program featuring Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Scriabin’s “Poem of Ecstasy” and the near-obligatory celebration fanfare “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” by John Adams. (Few tickets remain at press time.)

The true showcase of acoustic splendors will come a few weeks later, when Cincinnati Opera collaborates with the CSO in a fully staged performance of Debussy’s gorgeous opera “Pelléas et Mélisande,” a work close to the heart of CSO Music Director Louis Langrée.

Oct. 6-7 and Oct. 20-21, Music Hall, Over-the-Rhine. cincinnatisymphony.org

Chamber Music Cincinnati

Danish String Quartet

Danish String Quartet

For nearly nine decades, Chamber Music Cincinnati has presented many of the world’s greatest chamber-music players. Its guest roster includes just about any top-name trio, quartet, quintet or octet you can think of. This season, add to that list the phenomenal Danish String Quartet. Winners of many top prizes internationally, the group is renowned for its fierce unanimity, rhythmic vitality and ideal intonation. Its program includes Bartok’s Quartet No. 1, Beethoven’s Quartet No. 14 and a selection of Nordic folk music. It promises to be a stirring evening. Oct. 11, Memorial Hall, Over-the-Rhine. cincychamber.org

Vocal Arts Ensemble with Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra

Vocal Arts Ensemble

Vocal Arts Ensemble

VAE and CCO renew their fruitful collaboration this season with a concert that’s a can’t-miss for fans of great choral-orchestral music: Mozart’s masterful “Requiem” and J.S. Bach’s “Ascension Oratorio,” conducted by VAE’s innovative music director, Craig Hella Johnson, and performed in what will be VAE’s new concert home. A newly-commisioned choral fanfare by Dominick DiOrio will open the concert.
Nov. 12, Memorial Hall, Over-the-Rhine. vaecinci.org

Xavier University Music Series

Barry Douglas

Barry Douglas

Xavier’s jazz and piano series have a decades-long heritage of bringing both up-and-coming artists and superstars to perform for Cincinnati audiences. The coming season has a typically rich slate, but a standout for the fall season is a November recital by Irish piano great Barry Douglas, one of the few non-Russian pianists to win the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition. A brilliant player of great artistic depth, he recently finished recording the complete piano music of Brahms and has moved on to a Schubert cycle. He’s also fond of performing contemporary compositions and Irish folk music; while his Xavier program hasn’t been announced, you can expect some fascinating stuff. Nov. 12, Gallagher Theater/Xavier University. xavier.edu/musicseries

University of Cincinnati/College-Conservatory of Music

"Candide"

“Candide”

It’s anniversary time at CCM, which has planned a wide-ranging lineup of masterworks to celebrate its 150th birthday. Key among the coming attractions is a production of Leonard Bernstein’s sadly under-appreciated 1956 opera/musical “Candide,” which also kicks off a celebration of the great American conductor-composer’s 100th birthday in 2018. Bernstein’s sparkling music, Voltaire’s sharp satiric wit, CCM’s top-notch production values: Maybe not the best of all possible worlds, but close. Nov. 16-19, Patricia Corbett Theater/CCM/UC. ccm.uc.edu

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