Opera reaches for outdoor Summit this summer

Fifty years after Cincinnati Opera presented its final open-air season at its first performance home, the company returns to the outdoors.

“The promise of experiencing live singing again in the company of an enthusiastic, in-person audience is the dream that has carried us through this last year,” said Christopher Milligan, the opera’s chief executive officer.

The opera’s 2021 summer festival will take place July 11-31 at Summit Park in Blue Ash (after cicada season), and will feature internationally renowned artists, the Cincinnati Opera Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of Cincinnati Opera’s 100th anniversary season in summer 2020. In September, the company originally announced plans to return to live performance this summer at its traditional venues, Music Hall and the School for Creative and Performing Arts. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend social distancing as a best practice to stem the virus’s spread, and Ohio’s state mandates continue to limit capacity at indoor performance venues. In the interest of audience, artist, and staff safety, the company has opted to transition to an all-outdoor season for its 2021 summer festival. 

Summit Park was selected as the ideal performance site given its ability to host large-scale stage productions and its capacity to accommodate a significant, socially-distanced audience. Additionally, Summit Park offers a central location and an abundance of public amenities, such as parking and nearby restaurants. During Cincinnati Opera performances, audience members will be able to sit together in socially-distanced “pods” designated on Summit Park’s Great Lawn, and performances will be presented from an expansive stage constructed at the base of the park’s signature observation tower. 

Summit Park stage rendering

Cincinnati Opera’s summer festival includes three beloved operas previously announced as part of the company’s 2021 season – “Carmen,” “Tosca” and “The Barber of Seville.” Each opera will be presented without intermission in a reduced, 90-minute version that will be partially staged with costumes, theatrical hair and makeup, and lighting. Opera in the Park, Cincinnati Opera’s season-opening celebration concert, also moves to Summit Park and will kick off the 2021 summer festival. 

“Music Hall will always be our home, but we are fortunate to have found a gorgeous new venue in Summit Park for our return to the live stage,” said Evans Mirageas, the opera’s artistic director.

The previously announced world premieres of William Menefield and Sheila Williams’s “Fierce” and Gregory Spears and Tracy K. Smith’s “Castor and Patience,” originally planned for summer 2020 and rescheduled for summer 2021, have been postponed once more. “Fierce” is currently slated to receive its world premiere in fall 2021, and “Castor and Patience” will receive its world premiere in summer 2022. 

“Given the intimate scale of both “Fierce” and “Castor and Patience,” their optimum performance environment is an indoor theater,” said Mirageas. “The stories that both operas tell are compelling and important for our time. We look forward to giving these new works the premieres they so richly deserve in the very near future.” 

Tickets for Cincinnati Opera’s 2021 Summer Festival start at $15. Current subscribers will be contacted in April with additional information about their ticket options. Single tickets will go on sale to the general public on June 7. For additional information, including an extensive list of answers to frequently asked questions, visit cincinnatiopera.org. 

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