By Thomas Consolo
However one looks at it, this is a week of transition: Winter is fading but hasn’t completely surrendered. Daylight saving time has begun, returning our early mornings to darkness. For observant Christians, Lent is half over, but Easter is still weeks away. It’s the same in our arts scene, with events looking forward and back, opening and closing. Here are some not to miss.
Cincinnati Ballet | Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-621-5282
- Thursday-Sunday, March 15-18: “Director’s Cut: Musical Masters”
Cincinnati Ballet’s annual Director’s Cut program showcases dance as a mix of old and new. This year’s version offers choreography of two masters and an up-and-comer, setting music from the Baroque to nearly the 21st century. There are plenty of symbolic anniversaries, too.
Keystone to the program is the first of the Leonard Bernstein-Jerome Robbins collaborations, “Fancy Free.” It’s a perfect piece for this year of Bernstein’s centenary – and Robbins’ centenary, too. In “Fancy Free,” the two 20-somethings hoped to make a statement about America and American art. Both incorporated popular idioms from their respective disciplines, and they set a quintessentially American scenario – three sailors on 24-hour leave in New York City. For a piece written in the middle of World War II, it’s full of heady optimism and vitality.
George Balanchine, on the other hand, was world famous in dance by the time he came to the U.S. in 1934. He went on to found New York City Ballet (exactly 70 years ago) and led it for more than 35 years. He’s represented this weekend by “Rubies,” one of three movements of 1967’s “Jewels.” It sets Igor Stravinsky’s rare Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra.
Garrett Smith’s “Facades,” by contrast, premiered in just 2015. It sets the surprisingly complementary music of Vivaldi, Handel … and Philip Glass.
Sound alluring? You’re not alone: Even in the spacious Procter & Gamble Hall, Cincinnati Ballet has had to add performances. The added Thursday and Sunday shows offer the best chance for tickets.
The Mini Microcinema | 1329 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
- Sunday, March 8, 7:30 p.m.: “Thomasine & Bushrod”
The Mini has another macro weekend in store this week. Centerpiece is a screening of “Thomasine & Bushrod,” presented by Black Folks Make Movies. The 1974 blaxploitation classic is a combination of “Bonnie and Clyde” and Robin Hood. Vonette McGee and Max Julien star as a pair of thieves who operate in the American South between 1911 and 1915. They steal from the white establishment and give to the oppressed of all complexions.
The Mercantile Library | 414 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-621-0717
- Wednesday, March 14, 6 p.m.: “Words and Music – Steve Earle”
It’s pretty standard procedure for artists to go on a promotional tour when they release a new album. When you’re Steve Earle, though, that doesn’t mean the usual vehicles. Witness tonight’s (sorry for the short notice) appearance at the Mercantile Library. The singer-songwriter, producer, author, actor and three-time Grammy winner will tell you all about his latest musical offering, “So You Wannabe an Outlaw,” but expect a far more eclectic evening. This is a ticketed event, so check the link above.
Vocal Arts Ensemble | Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-381-3300
- Tuesday, March 20, 7:30 p.m.: “Vespers”
Musicians will admit that a few pieces reside a little closer to their hearts than the rest. For choral singers, Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers” is one of those. Written in the last days of imperial Russia, after World War I had begun, it’s a 15-movement a cappella masterpiece based on chants of the Russian Orthodox Church.
For the record, the title by which it’s known – “Vespers” – is a misnomer; only about the first third of the work uses chants actually designated for vespers. The proper title is “All-Night Vigil,” referring to the Orthodox vigil the night before major holy days. Tchaikovsky wrote one, too, but Rachmaninoff’s is the gold standard.
The work was a favorite of the composer. Movement 8, “Praise the Name of the Lord,” was transformed into the coda of his final orchestral work, the Symphonic Dances of 1940, and he asked that part of the “Vespers” be performed at his funeral.
Also of note:
Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra | First Unitarian Church, 536 Linton St., Cincinnati, OH 45219; 513-280-8181
- Sunday, March 18, 2 p.m.: “Jazz From Across the Pond”
The Jazz@First series of performances continues with British reed player Alan Barnes. (He’ll stick around town long enough to play March 22, too, as part of CCJO’s Sherlock Holmes-themed “Sound of the Baskervilles” concert, featuring many Barnes originals.)
Lloyd Library | 917 Plum St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-721-3707
- Through March 17: “Winter Greens”
Go ahead and admit it: You’ve never visited the Lloyd Library and Museum. You might not even have heard of it. Many people haven’t, including life-long Cincinnatians. The heart of the library is the remarkable collection by the Lloyd brothers, John and Curtis, whose divergent interests led directly to the facility’s unique vision today. John ran the laboratory at Merrell and Co. – yes, the pharmaceutical firm. Curtis preferred botany and mycology – fungi – especially plants’ medicinal properties.
Their collection grew so large that they built a separate building to house it, then a larger one. After their deaths, the trust that still holds (and expands) the collection built an even larger home, where it has resided since 1970.
The seasonal exhibit, like winter about to end, features resources on evergreens. There are volumes dating back to the 16th century filled with detailed illustrations, many in brilliant color. It’s an outstanding example of where science and art overlap.
As a small facility, its hours are relatively limited. Check the website for times.