Putting this list together, I am stunned at the bounty Cincinnati has to offer. It used to be that major acts passed us by. No longer. Check out this list, with local treasures too, and take advantage of what is a formidable collection of unique opportunities. We have definitely hit the big time.
Wednesday, Nov. 17
Broadway Across America, “Wicked” | 7:30 p.m. Procter & Gamble Hall, Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-721-3344. DETAILS: Not sure what tickets might still be available… But if you are lucky, experience the thrill of Broadway again as Cincinnati travels to the Land of Oz to uncover the untold truths of the wicked witch. With hits like “Defying Gravity”, “Popular” and so much more. Various times available thru Dec. 5.
Thursday, Nov. 18
Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, CCJO Meets Steely Dan | 7 p.m. The Redmoor, Mt. Lookout Square. 513-280-8181. DETAILS: The CCJO Big Band is back, baby, and, if history holds true, these pros will be sharing fascinating arrangements of hits by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, two of the most infectious songwriters ever. Can’t wait.
College-Conservatory of Music, Guest Artist Series | 7:30 p.m. Werner Recital Hall, University of Cincinnati. 513-556-4183. DETAILS: Recital of works by Grammy-winning composer Missy Mazzoli, who will be in attendance. Features guest artists the Beo String Quartet, CCM student artist Michael Delfin, piano, and William R. Langley, guest conductor. The program includes her compositions “Vespers for Violin” (2014), “Enthusiasm Strategies” (2019), “Harp and Altar” (2009), “A Thousand Tongues” (2009), “Lies you Can Believe In” (2007), “Heartbreaker” (2013), “Ecstatic Science” (2017) and “Still Life with Avalanche” (2008). Reception to follow in the CCM Baur Room.
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center “Unmasking the Realities: Conscious and Unconscious Bias in Urban Planning” | 3 p.m. Virtual. 513-333-7500. DETAILS: This discussion will explore not only the historical impact of urban planning, but the current state of urban planning and how communities of color continue to be impacted today. Registration required.
Memorial Hall, “Absence” | 1225 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-977-8838. DETAILS: So, Terence Blanchard has had quite a year. Not many of us receive a commission from the Metropolitan Opera (Yes, THE Met: ) for a season-opening opera – “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.” Now you get to experience Blanchard channeling the creative legacy of Wayne Shorter in a show featuring Blanchard’s stellar E-Collective and the Grammy-winning Turtle Island String Quartet.
Taft Theatre, Ben Folds | 7:30 p.m. 317 E. Fifth St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. DETAILS: As if the evening needed more star power, here comes the intellectual pop icon, Ben Folds, to round out the selection for this evening. (And it’s only Thursday!) The singer-songwriter, now serious composer, brings his latest show to the oh-so-busy Taft. Time is the only factor limiting your musical exploration this night. So sorry you have to make choices!
Friday, Nov. 19
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!)” | 7:30 p.m. 1195 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-381-2273. DETAILS: What begins as another annual production of “A Christmas Carol” soon devolves into a slightly(?) irreverent look at all of our favorite “Beloved Holiday Classics,” including pop culture favorites like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Rudolph,” “Charlie Brown” and more. Hilaity reigns supreme. Various times and dates thru Dec. 26. After the past 20 months, aren’t we allowed some irreverance?
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, “Manny, Haydn, & Beethoven 8” | 11 a.m. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-381-3300. DETAILS: Normally, a keyboard concerto by Franz Josef Haydn (He composed 13.) would not be a huge deal, but in the hands of Queen City-favorite Emmanuel “Manny” Ax, Haydn’s facility becomes uncanny agility. Beethoven’s 8th is worthy of more attention than previously received, but it might be Sebastian Currier’s take on Beethoven that steals the show. You decide, after you attend, of course. Repeats Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
HOLIDAY LIGHTS AHEAD!
Cincinnati Zoo, Festival of Lights | 3400 Vine St. DETAILS: We know it’s the holiday season once again when the Cincinnati Zoo kicks off its annual Festival of Lights. This is the 39th season, and it includes lots of fun activities: scavenger hunts, Polar Express train rides, meeting Santa and Mrs. Claus, and much more. Sip on hot cocoa and snack at the S’mores Station, while you explore the lights. Runs through Jan. 9.
Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park, “Journey BOREALIS” | 1763 Hamilton-Cleves Rd., Hamilton, OH 45013. DETAILS: Excited for more holiday light shows? This new-and-improved journey features glimmering trees and arches, Jerusalem’s Hanukkah celebration, and a beautiful Swan Lake. Visitors will travel through Germany’s Candy Cane Forest to see more than 50 yarn-wrapped trees and the Grinch’s Greenland. Then drive through Bethlehem’s birth of Jesus and the North Pole. Before exiting, Brave Berlin, creators of Blink, have transformed the park’s pavilion into a Winterland, with video projection surprises behind every door. Runs through Jan. 2.
Essex Studios, Fine Arts Evening | 6-10 p.m., 2511 Essex Pl. DETAILS: This one-night re-opening celebration event will feature five artists: Gilda Horn, Stephen Jenkins, Dave Laug, Magno Relojo and Trish Weeks. Additionally, 20 more artists will have studios open to the public. Tom Tsuchiya, creator of plaques for the National Baseball Hall of Fame as well as sculptures at Smale Park and Great American Ball Park, will offer a talk on his process. Walnut Hills neighbor La Soupe will provide refreshments, and there will be live music by Sarah Gorak.
Weston Art Gallery, Three new exhibitions | Aronoff Center. DETAILS: All three new exhibitions reflect on race and other factors that affect artists’ lives. In “Kandice Odister—The Barbie is Her/Me: A Reflection of Black Women During Quarantine.” Odister creates vignettes and photographs in a visual depiction of the lives of several Black women who’ve inspired the artist during the COVID-19 pandemic, styling and re-facing her diverse collection of Black Barbies to represent each woman. “Bruce Bennett: Love II” explores issues of gender, sexuality, race and socioeconomic status in large-scale black-and-white photographs. “Gee Horton: Coming of Age Chapter I – In Search of Self…Identity” is an autobiographical installation offering a complex multilayered conversation about black-male adolescence and the search for identity, acceptance, purpose and love. All three exhibitions run through Jan. 16.
Saturday, Nov. 20
Cincinnati Museum Center, OMNIMAX Theater | Union Terminal, Queensgate. DETAILS: “Ancient Caves” follows paleoclimatologist Dr. Gina Moseley on a mission to unlock the secrets of the Earth’s climate. She and her team travel the world exploring vast underground worlds in search of stalagmite samples – geologic “fingerprints” – that reveal clues about the planet’s climate history.
Cincinnati Type & Print Museum, 5th Anniversary Open House | 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 2307 W. Eighth Street, Cincinnati, OH 45204. DETAILS: Having spent a decade in the print industry right before digital took over, I have a tremendous respect for the physical, analog process of print. It’s one reason we still produce a print magazine. Go and explore the magic of pre-pixel mass-duplication. Staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer any questions. There will be live demonstrations of historic presses and other equipment, with the opportunity to print a souvenir to take home. There will also be cake! All visitors are requested to wear a mask, and free parking is available on-site.
FOUND Cincinnati, Holiday Homecoming Concert | 4-10 p.m. The Banks. DETAILS: This free concert serves as a lead-in to the month-long FOUND celebration that encourages locals and visitors to explore and discover throughout the downtown basin. The concert features Arin Ray with special guests The Bright Light Social Hour featuring Mia Carruthers, Speed Walton, The Heavy Hours and more.
Viva Voices, Chorale & Chamber Ensemble | 7 p.m. Covenant-First Presbyterian Church, 717 Elm. St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. DETAILS: This is the debut of a new choral organization created by conductor Tony Burdette, which features ensemble opportunities ranging from kids to pros. Tonight features the grown-ups in one of downtown’s unique music spaces. Tomorrow belongs to the kids: 5 p.m. in Covington’s Madison Avenue Christian Church. It’s great to see new energy!
Sunday, Nov. 21
College-Conservatory of Music, “Nutcracker Suite” | 2 & 7:30 p.m. Corbett Theater, University of Cincinnati. 513-556-4183. DETAILS: This writer is a total sucker for outstanding jazz arrangements of classical favorites, and you can’t get more outstanding or favorite than Duke Ellington arranging Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker.” And these CCM jazzers are really good. Add in some new choreography from the Musical Theatre department and things get really interesting.
concert:nova, Octets | 5 & 7 :30 p.m. Woodward Theater, Over-the-Rhine. DETAILS: Cutting edge ensemble concert:nova has finally returned to live performance, and it’s only fitting that they have chosen a rock venue. Never conventional, this concert offers lesser-known string octets by Max Bruch, Reinhold Glière and Dmitri Shostakovich. Prefer to view from afar? A virtual option is available.
Matinee Musicale, Albert Cano Smit | 3 p.m. Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. DETAILS: The award-winning Spanish/Dutch pianist returns by popular demand, as he continues his ascent to major concert halls around the world. His program features works by Robert Schumann, J.S. and son W.F. Bach, and a suite of dances by the under-performed Argentinian composer, Alberto Ginastera.
Tuesday, Nov. 23
Chamber Music Cincinnati, Thalea Quartet | 7:30 p.m. Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-342-6870. DETAILS: You actually have two opportunities to hear this concert. If Sunday is a better fit, 4 p.m. at Corinthian Baptist Church in Bond Hill. CMC concerts this year are being hosted by large Black congregations, in addition to performances oin Memorial Hall. Either way, you are in for an adventure, with the Thalea Quartet (pron. TA-lee-a) sharing music by Baroque master Joseph Bologne, the 20th-century Black composer Florence Price (with pianist Michelle Cann) and a new work from Paola Prestini, “The Red Book.”
Hyde Park Farmers’ Market, Turkey Tuesday | 6:30-8:30 p.m. Hyde Park Square, Erie and Edwards, Cincinnati, OH 45208. DETAILS: In preparation for Thanksgiving, this one-day market event carries everything you will need for your holiday celebration. You will find gifts – like handcrafted soap, fresh produce, flowers and decor, artisanal food, fresh baked goods, and don’t forget the farm-raised turkeys from Eaton Farm or Elmwood Stock Farm. You can preorder a turkey and pick it up at the market to enjoy with your friends and family. This is the third annual Turkey Tuesday.