Cincinnati Opera Announces Reimagined 2021 Summer Festival

CO_Summer at Summit StageSUMMER AT SUMMIT

The company’s return to live performance will move outdoors to Summit Park in Blue Ash, Ohio 

The festival features three productions in repertory this July—CARMEN, TOSCA and THE BARBER OF SEVILLE—to be presented without intermission in specially tailored, ninety-minute versions 

Each production will be headlined by world-class artists, including J’Nai Bridges, Janai Brugger, Rihab Chaieb, Ana María Martínez, Aaron Blake, Stephen Costello, Quinn Kelsey, Chris Kenney, Christian Pursell, Reginald Smith Jr., Morris Robinson, Russell Thomas, and the Cincinnati Opera Chorus 

Conductors Xian Zhang, Renato Balsadonna, and Ramón Tebar will lead the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Cincinnati, Ohio—Fifty years after Cincinnati Opera presented its final open-air season at its first performance home, the Cincinnati Zoo, the company returns to the outdoors for its reimagined 2021 Summer Festival, Summer at Summit. The season will take place July 11-31 at Summit Park, located in the heart of Blue Ash, Ohio, and will feature internationally renowned artists, the Cincinnati Opera Chorus, and the 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 announced plans to return to live performance in summer 2021 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.

Cincinnati Opera’s Summer at Summit includes three beloved operas previously announced as part of the company’s 2021 season—CarmenTosca, and The Barber of Seville. Each opera will be presented without intermission in a reduced, ninety-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 Harry T. Wilks Artistic Director of Cincinnati Opera. “Audience members can be assured that our Summer at Summit will have all of the hallmarks they’ve come to love about Cincinnati Opera—glorious singing, inspiring storytelling, and the chance to be swept away by the magic of live performance.”

“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 Harry Fath General Director & CEO of Cincinnati Opera. “We’re grateful to the City of Blue Ash for their partnership as we’ve worked together to envision a one-of-a-kind opera-going experience for our community.”

“The City of Blue Ash is excited for this unique partnership with Cincinnati Opera,” said Blue Ash Mayor Marc Sirkin. “Summit Park is an outstanding outdoor venue that will grant attendees enough room to remain safely socially distanced. I’m thrilled that the Opera will be able to perform in the city, bringing a new type of entertainment to residents and visitors alike.”  

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 will 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.

Cincinnati Opera’s 2021 Summer Festival
SUMMER AT SUMMIT

OPERA IN THE PARK

When & Where:
Sunday, July 11, 2021 | 7:30 p.m.
Summit Park

Cincinnati Opera celebrates the opening of Summer at Summit with Opera in the Park, a free, family-friendly outdoor concert. Opera in the Park will showcase favorite selections from opera and musical theater performed by stars from the 2021 Summer Festival, the Cincinnati Opera Chorus, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.


CARMEN
Music by Georges Bizet
Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy
Sung in French with projected translation

When & Where:

  • Saturday, July 17, 2021 | 8:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 22, 2021 | 8:30 p.m.
  • Monday, July 26, 2021 | 8:30 p.m.
  • Friday, July 30, 2021 | 8:30 p.m.

Summit Park

The festival continues with the most popular opera of all time, Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Opera’s quintessential femme fatale, Carmen shows us she’s that and so much more—a fearless, flirtatious force of nature who refuses to answer to anyone but herself. Her confidence attracts the attention of Don José, whose passion turns to obsession, then spirals into madness. When José threatens Carmen with death should she refuse him, she chooses freedom over all. Featuring some of opera’s best-known melodies, from the sultry “Habanera” to the rousing “Toreador Song,” Carmen is an ageless ode to one woman’s fierce independence.

Mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, a “rising star” (Los Angeles Times) known for her “plush-voiced mezzo-soprano” (The New York Times), makes her Cincinnati Opera debut as Carmen. Cincinnati Opera favorite tenor Stephen Costello, “a prodigiously gifted singer” (Associated Press), appears as Don José. Soprano Janai Brugger, who appeared most recently with Cincinnati Opera as Clara in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (2019) and Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro (2019), brings her “opulent soprano voice” (Los Angeles Times) to the role of Micaëla. Bass-baritone Christian Pursell offers “power, precision, and congeniality” (Houston Chronicle) as the swaggering bullfighter Escamillo. Conductor Ramón Tebar, current music director of the Orquestra de Valencia (Spain) and artistic director of Opera Naples, leads the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and stage direction is by Omer Ben Seadia, recently hailed for her “imaginatively staged” (Cincinnati Business Courier) production of Cincinnati Opera’s Ariadne auf Naxos (2019).

Cast:

  • Carmen: J’Nai Bridges
  • Don José: Stephen Costello
  • Micaëla: Janai Brugger
  • Escamillo: Christian Pursell
  • Zuniga: Burak Bilgili
  • El Remendado: Victor Ryan Robertson
  • El Dancaïro: Thomas Dreeze

Creative Team:

  • Conductor: Ramón Tebar
  • Stage director: Omer Ben Seadia
  • Lighting designer: Thomas C. Hase
  • Costume director: Rebecca Senske
  • Wig & makeup designer: James Geier
  • Sound designer: Jonathan Burke
  • Chorus master: Henri Venanzi

Featuring the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Opera Chorus


TOSCA
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
Sung in Italian with projected translation

When & Where:

  • Friday, July 23, 2021 | 8:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, July 27, 2021 | 8:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 31, 2021 | 8:30 p.m.

Summit Park

Cincinnati Opera will then present Giacomo Puccini’s glorious Tosca. In the city of Rome during a time of political turmoil, the tempestuous opera diva Floria Tosca is madly in love with the painter Mario Cavaradossi. When Tosca’s lover becomes entangled in a crime and is condemned to death, the lecherous police chief Scarpia insists only one thing can save him: Tosca herself. Tosca is a passionate melodrama suffused with political intrigue—a roller-coaster ride of love, power, and tragedy told through unforgettable music.

Grammy Award-winning soprano Ana María Martínez makes her Cincinnati Opera debut as Tosca, bringing a voice of “chocolate-rich vibrancy in the low and middle range and … thrilling brilliance at the top” (Opera News). Tenor Russell Thomas, hailed for his “heroically shining tone of exceptional clarity and precision” (Opera, U.K.), returns to Cincinnati Opera as Cavaradossi after last appearing with the company in 2016 (Florestan, Fidelio). In his company debut, the “superb” and “virile-voiced” (The New York Times) baritone Quinn Kelsey sings the role of Baron Scarpia. Conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Music Director Xian Zhang. Stage director is Jose Maria Condemi, director of opera and musical theater at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Cast:

  • Floria Tosca: Ana María Martínez
  • Mario Cavaradossi: Russell Thomas
  • Baron Scarpia: Quinn Kelsey
  • Cesare Angelotti: Michael Sumuel
  • Spoletta: Julius Ahn

Creative Team:

  • Conductor: Xian Zhang
  • Stage director: Jose Maria Condemi
  • Lighting designer: Thomas C. Hase
  • Costume director: Rebecca Senske
  • Wig & makeup designer: James Geier
  • Sound designer: Jonathan Burke
  • Chorus master: Henri Venanzi

Featuring the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Opera Chorus


THE BARBER OF SEVILLE
Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Cesare Sterbini
Sung in Italian with projected translation

When & Where:

  • Saturday, July 24, 2021 | 8:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 29, 2021 | 8:30 p.m.

Summit Park

Based on the play of the same name by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, The Barber of Seville introduces us to Figaro, the titular barber bursting with bravado. He’s enlisted by the lovelorn Count Almaviva to win the heart of the clever and comely Rosina. With whimsy, wit, and plenty of woo, The Barber of Seville reminds us that, as Beaumarchais once said, “Where love is concerned, too much is not even enough.”

Mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb brings “sheer dramatic charm and vocal clarity” (San Francisco Chronicle) to the role of Rosina, after last appearing with the company as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro (2019). Appearing as Almaviva is Cincinnati Opera favorite tenor Aaron Blake, whose voice was hailed by The New York Times as “endearing and sweet-sounding … with youthful fervor and stamina.” Making his company debut as Figaro is baritone Chris Kenney, a recent alum of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s prestigious Ryan Opera Center Ensemble. Singing the role of Doctor Bartolo is baritone Reginald Smith Jr., who last appeared with Cincinnati Opera as Jake in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (2019) and in the company’s recent digital Winter Festival production of Opera…from a Sistah’s Point of View. Bass and Cincinnati Opera Artistic Advisor Morris Robinson, whose recent engagements with Cincinnati Opera include a star turn as Porgy in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (2019), is Don Basilio. Acclaimed conductor Renato Balsadonna leads the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and stage director is Joshua R. Horowitz, making his company debut.

Cast:

  • Rosina: Rihab Chaieb
  • Count Almaviva: Aaron Blake
  • Figaro: Chris Kenney
  • Doctor Bartolo: Reginald Smith Jr.
  • Don Basilio: Morris Robinson
  • Berta: Wendy Hill

Creative Team:

  • Conductor: Renato Balsadonna
  • Stage director: Joshua R. Horowitz
  • Lighting designer: Thomas C. Hase
  • Costume director: Rebecca Senske
  • Wig & makeup designer: James Geier
  • Sound designer: Jonathan Burke
  • Chorus master: Henri Venanzi

Featuring the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Opera Chorus


Tickets and Additional Information

Tickets to 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.


About Summit Park
Summit Park, located in the center of Blue Ash, is a beautiful, 130-acre world-class park that provides exciting, year-round events, activities, and unique learning opportunities. Experience a breathtaking 360-degree view of the tristate in the free Observation Tower, explore the Naturescape playground, discover trails, catch a fish in the pond, take your furry friend to the dog park, and dine in one of four outstanding on-site restaurants. In the winter months, the park offers unique and affordable fun with ice skating and sledding. Summit Park is also an exceptional venue for national and regional entertainment, and it is the perfect site for your next gathering or event. 

To learn more, visit summitparkblueash.com.

About Cincinnati Opera
Cincinnati Opera’s mission is to enrich and connect our community through diverse opera experiences. Founded in 1920 and the second-oldest opera company in the nation, Cincinnati Opera presents a thrilling season of grand opera every summer and engaging programs throughout the year. The company’s repertoire includes beloved classics and contemporary masterworks brought to life by some of the world’s most dynamic performers and creative artists. 

Cincinnati Opera receives support from ArtsWave, the Ohio Arts Council, The Louise Dieterle Nippert Musical Arts Fund, Patricia A. Corbett Estate and Trust, and the Harry T. Wilks Family Foundation, along with many other generous individuals, corporations, and foundations. Cincinnati Opera is a proud member of OPERA America. 

To learn more, visit cincinnatiopera.org.

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