By Thomas Consolo
Repeat after us: Pay no attention to the falling snow. It’s spring. It’s really spring. Whatever Mother Nature’s capricious weather, there are still plenty of great reasons to get out of the house this week for great arts offerings. In particular, although Holy Week doesn’t start until Sunday, Easter-themed programs are popping up like daffodils.
Cincinnati Museum Center | 760 W. Fifth St., Cincinnati, OH 45203; 513-287-7000
- Saturday, March 24, 9:30 a.m. Cincinnati Heritage Program – Treasures of the Queen City
Yes, we know the Cincinnati Museum Center is not on West Fifth Street. But the Museum Center’s Geier Collections and Research Center is, and with Union Terminal closed for renovations, the center is giving you a rare opportunity to see inside this little-known facility. You’ve noticed it if you drive through Queensgate: It’s the building with the old Natural History Museum woolly mammoth statues out front. The cool stuff, though, is inside.
The Geier Collections building is the central storage facility for six major Museum Center collections. Want to know about the Ordovician Period, when what is now Cincinnati lay at the bottom of an inland sea? The invertebrate paleontology collection can help. The history objects and fine art collection include treasures like clothing and furniture from Cincinnati’s earliest days, artifacts of our days as an American brewing capital and even city streetcar No. 2435, built in 1923.
Participants Saturday will hear why and how Cincinnati Museum Center collects and safeguards the objects of our collective history. Be warned: You must register by Friday.
The Mini Microcinema | 1329 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
- Tuesday, March 27, 7:30 p.m. “Ben-Hur”
In 1880, Lew Wallace – a Crawfordsville, Indiana, native who served as a Union general in the Civil War and would go on to be U.S. minister to the Ottoman Empire – published his second novel. Set in the Holy Land, it told of a Jewish prince in the time of the Roman Empire whose story intertwined with that of Jesus of Nazareth. The critical reception for “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” was tepid, but it captured the public’s imagination and for decades held the top spot as the best-selling U.S. novel.
Spectacular theater adaptations and, with changing technology, cinema adaptations followed. The 1959 epic, starring Charlton Heston, is actually the third version on film. When they were made, both it and its 1925 silent predecessor had the highest-ever movie production budgets. The 1959 version won 11 Academy Awards, including best picture, best director and best actor.
“Ben-Hur” no longer airs on network television every Easter season, but our friends at The Mini want you to relive it as intended – in a movie theater. Even if you don’t see Heston as a world-class actor, this film would be worth attending just to hear the incredible score by Miklós Rózsa. This screening is presented by the University of Cincinnati Center for Film and Media Studies. Make sure not to be docked on your term papers: Like “Moby-Dick,” there is a hyphen in the title.
Bach Ensemble of St. Thomas | 100 Miami Ave., Terrace Park, OH 45145; 513-831-2052
- Sunday, March 25, 5 p.m. “Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünde”
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, J.S. Bach liked Giovanni Pergolesi’s 1736 “Stabat Mater” a lot. Enough, in fact, to lift it wholesale and rewrite it in 1740 with a German text. As you might expect of Bach’s genius, the rewrite features a few changes to match the German master’s vision. Sunday’s performance is at the Bach Ensemble’s home base, St. Thomas Episcopal Church.
Collegium Cincinnati | 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-428-2224
- Saturday, March 24, 7 p.m. “Mothers and Sons”
At the opposite end of the sacred music spectrum is this program by the resident ensemble of downtown’s Christ Church Cathedral. Taking a look at the crucifixion of Jesus from the perspective of a mother, it features late 20th-century works by the mystical John Tavener (who became a household name after Princess Diana’s funeral) – including the program’s title piece, “Mother and Child” – and Arvo Pärt’s haunting “Stabat Mater.”
Saturday’s performance at St. Anne’s Church (6461 Tylersville Rd., West Chester Township, OH 45069) repeats Sunday, 3 p.m., at Christ Church Cathedral (318 E. Fourth St., Cincinnati, OH 45202).
Also of note:
Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra | The Redmoor, 3187 Linwood Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45208; 513-280-8181
- Thursday, March 22, 7 p.m. “The Sound of the Baskervilles”
We told you about Alan Barnes’s performance last week. This week he’s composer, lead soloist and narrator at the Redmoor for the CCJO’s latest big band show. The musical-literary performance will explore the characters, atmosphere and stories of Sherlock Holmes through readings, commentary and, of course, jazz.
American Sign Museum | 1330 Monmouth Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45225; 513-541-6366
- Saturday, March 24, 7 p.m. Shiny and the Spoon
If sacred music and jazz don’t do it for you, maybe this Cincinnati-based folk-Americana band will. It’s part of the American Sign Museum’s “Signs and Songs” series.
College-Conservatory of Music | University of Cincinnati 45221; 513-556-6638
- March 22-25. “Suor Angelica” and “Gianni Schicchi”
“Il Trittico” (The Triptych) was Giacomo Puccini’s penultimate work, written in 1918. Three self-contained, one-act operas show different perspectives on what people will do for love: jealous murder, self-destruction and capital crime (one is a comedy, for the record), each with a slightly different musical hue. CCM is mounting the second and third for its spring mainstage offering.
“Suor Angelica” was a personal favorite of Puccini, who created some of his most poignant music reflecting the pathos of Sister Angelica’s suffering at the hands of her cruel aunt. Rare is the audience member who doesn’t tear up at “Senza mamma” or the final chorus. Neither could one likely resist turning to just a little will-tampering at the behest of Schicchi’s daughter, Lauretta, after hearing “O mio babbino caro.”
Performances are in Patricia Corbett Theater.
Cincinnati Art Museum | 953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-721-2787
- Opening Friday, March 23: “Cagnacci: Painting Beauty and Death”
Don’t feel bad if you don’t know the Italian baroque painter Guido Cagnacci (1601-1663; pronounce it kahn-YA-chee); most people don’t. Though he found some aristocratic favor in his lifetime, his output is relatively small and of inconsistent quality. His best, though, is pretty good, and CAM wants you to see it for yourself. Centerpiece to this show is 1660’s “The Death of Cleopatra,” a sympathetic portrait of the Egyptian queen after she has been bitten by a venomous snake. The work is on loan from the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, Italy.
Also of note:
Clifton Cultural Arts Center | 3711 Clifton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220; 513-497-2860
- Opening Friday, March 23, 6-8 p.m. “what they wore”
Debora Myles, winner of the eighth annual CCAC Golden Ticket juried exhibition, was inspired by found children’s garments. Using handmade paper, paint, ink, thread and other ephemeral materials, the artist hopes to evoke feelings and questions about the absent body. The show runs through April 21.