What to Do/See/Hear | May 23-29

By Thomas Consolo

It’s definitely festival season. Whether indoors or out, fine art, fringe or food, there’s an event out there this week just for you. Take a look.



Downtown Cincinnati | E. Fifth St., Cincinnati, OH 45202

Blue Ash Towne Square Amphitheater | 9520 Towne Square Ave., Blue Ash, OH 45242

Decoration Day has evolved over the years from its origins as a Civil War remembrance into Memorial Day, a time to remember those who have fallen in service to our country and to mark the unofficial beginning of summer. That inspires parallel weekend celebrations that are, respectively, solemn and celebratory. There are plenty of both kinds to choose, so here are two representative samples.

The Taste of Cincinnati this year celebrates its 40th birthday as the longest-running culinary arts festival in the United States. The annual gourmand’s fantasy will feature about 250 dishes from about 50 vendors in booths along Fifth Street, east of Main Street. (My personal rule: You can’t eat anything that’s an Oktoberfest favorite, so just walk on by that cream puff.) In honor of the big anniversary year, organizers have added a musical birthday party to the lineup. Dubbed the Music Bash @ Taste of Cincinnati, the ticketed event presents music from Taste’s first days – the B-52s, Rick Springfield and Loverboy.

North of town, meanwhile, the Blue Ash Montgomery Symphony Orchestra offers its annual holiday tribute, conducted by Michael Chertock. You can, of course, expect to hear the “Armed Forces Salute,” and this year’s program will include the required dose of John Williams. There’s also a guest artist, pianist Julia Siciliano.



Cincinnati Fringe Festival | 1120 Jackson St., Cincinnati, OH 45202

  • May 29-June 10

Now in its 15th year, the Fringe Festival still celebrates its founding vision: “Kinda weird. Like you.” This year’s incarnation offers more than 250 performances, galleries, installations, concerts, parties and other events curated by 40 local theater professionals, journalists and educators. Home base is Know Theatre, hence the address above, but performances are offered in more than a dozen Over-the-Rhine venues, traditional and not. We gave you a preview last month. Now it’s here.

There’s too much going on even to begin to list, but you should at least know that many of these works deal with adult themes. My advice is to go to the festival’s lineup page and find something that sounds interesting to you. Sort events to your liking from the (relatively) more traditional Primary Lineup to the more experimental. Trust us, there’s something for every taste.



Choreographer Susan Honer and sculpture artist-composer Sean Simon

Choreographer Susan Honer and sculpture artist-composer Sean Simon

MamLuft & Co. Dance | 44 E. Sixth St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-345-8400

  • May 24-26: “Iceman 3000”

Presented in partnership with – and at – the Contemporary Arts Center, “Iceman 3000” is a world premiere from choreographer Susan Honer and sculpture artist-composer Sean Simon. The work re-imagines the story of “Ötzi,” the mummified, 5,300 year-old man discovered in the Austrian Alps in 1991 … but in the year 3000. “Iceman 3000” is presented in conjunction with “Deep North,” an installation by Chris Larson, as part of his larger CAC exhibition, “Function is Redundant.”



Phyllis Wheatley

Phyllis Wheatley

Mercantile Library | 414 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-621-0717

  • Thursday, May 24, 6 p.m.: “Miss Wheatley’s Garden & Other Works”

Tara Lake presents a celebration of African-American women’s classical art songs, poetry and prose, featuring composer Rosephanye Powell’s “Miss Wheatley’s Garden.” The short song cycle is an homage to Phyllis Wheatley, a poet who, as a slave in Boston in 1773, became the first African-American to have a book published. Powell’s songs were set to words by black American poets Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Angelina Weld Grimké and Georgia Douglas Johnson.



Art of the Piano | Werner Recital Hall, U.C. College-Conservatory of Music, 2600 Clifton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45221

  • May 26-June 16

Art of the Piano was created in 2011 by Awadagin Pratt as “an intimate festival” to raise the level of artistry for young pianists. As we told you earlier this month, it’s a platform for the young artists to work with the world’s leading performers and teachers; to perfect recital and competition repertoire; and to have a quiet, beautiful place to practice and learn. Aside from numerous student recitals (including one at noon, Saturday, May 26, at Taste of Cincinnati), the headline artists each give a concert.

This weekend:

Pianist Sergei Babayan

Sergei Babayan plays an interesting program of old and new, with music by Couperin and Rameau balancing “Spiegel im Spiegel” by Arvo Pärt. Mozart rounds out the evening. (Saturday, May 26, 7 p.m.)

Marina Lomazov goes all-Russian for her program, with music by Scriabin, Tchaikovsky and the Ukraine-born composer, Nikolai Kapustin. The headline piece, at least the one you know best, is Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” I know you knew it was originally a solo piano work. (Sunday, May 27, 4 p.m.)

Cincinnati May Festival | 1241 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-381-3300

  • Friday, May 25, 8 p.m.: A Lush and Rhythmic Romance
  • Saturday, May 26, 8 p.m.: Handel’s “Messiah”

We’ve written about Juanjo Mena’s appointment as the May Festival’s principal conductor; this weekend, audiences finally get to see him. He’ll lead two very different programs in Music Hall.

On Friday, the sacred and profane program includes an echo of last Saturday’s performance of Leonard Bernstein’s monumental “Mass.” His “Chichester Psalms” is part of the sacred first half (also Gabrieli’s “Magnificat” and the North American premiere of James MacMillan’s “Credo”). The second half is given over to Ravel’s complete “Daphnis et Chloé,” one of classical music’s sexiest pieces. Key to its overwhelming sensuality, of course, is the wordless chorus.

May Festivals traditionally conclude with an audience sing-along of the “Hallelujah” Chorus from “Messiah.” (No, “the” really isn’t part of the title.) This year, Saturday’s final concert serves up the entire oratorio.



Queen City Opera | 1945 Dunham Way, Cincinnati, OH 45238

  • Friday, May 25, and Sunday, May 27: “Iolanta”

Tchaikovsky’s fairy-tale opera “Iolanta” – his last – premiered in 1892 as a double bill with “The Nutcracker.” Unlike the Christmas-themed ballet, though, “Iolanta,” like most of Tchaikovsky’s operas, is rarely performed these days. In fact Queen City Opera’s performances this weekend are billed as the work’s Ohio premiere. (For the record, the Tchaikovsky opera is a resetting of a Danish play and not at all related to the Gilbert and Sullivan opera “Iolanthe.”) Why not head to the West Side and see how opera fares at the Arts Center at Dunham?



As the wicked witch sings, it’s the last midnight for these productions:

  • Cincinnati Landmark Productions: “Bye Bye Birdie” – Through Sunday, May 27, in the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater in Price Hill. Broadway’s 1958 musical reaction to the Elvis phenomenon. (801 Matson Place; Cincinnati, OH 45204; 513-241-6550)
  • Fairfield Footlighters: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” – Through Sunday, May 27, at the Fairfield Community Arts Center. This celebration of the mating game takes on the truths and myths behind that conundrum known as the relationship. (411 Wessel Drive, Fairfield, OH 45014; 513-867-5348)
  • Mariemont Players: “The Outgoing Tide” – Through Sunday, May 27, at the Walton Creek Theater. In a summer cottage on Chesapeake Bay, Gunner, his wife and son must find common ground about the family’s future before the tide goes out. (4101 Walton Creek Road, Cincinnati, OH 45227)



1305 Gallery | 1305 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45202

  • Friday, May 25, 6 p.m.: “The River”

Local artists Christopher Beiting and Ben Kleier want to transport you to “The River,” a place of overlapping natural and manmade, and physical and metaphysical worlds. Items found on the banks of the Ohio River mix with other media and become sculpture, intermingled with driftwood and other remnants of the artists’ visits to the river’s edge. A musical performance is planned for 8 p.m.

River of Life at Taft Museum of Art

Last chances:

  • Mary Ran Gallery: Merle Rosen Exhibit – Through Saturday, May 26. Cincinnati artist Merle Rosen died of brain cancer in 2017. The exhibit benefits brain cancer research at the University of Cincinnati’s Gardner Neuroscience Institute. Read more here. (3668 Erie Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45208; 513-871-5604)
  • Taft Museum of Art: “Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection” – Through Sunday, May 27. The brilliant creations of this great American craftsman cover a far broader range than the colored glass for which he’s best known today. This small but still comprehensive exhibit gives you a good look at the entire scope of his output. (316 Pike St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-241-0343)

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