Sunday, August 17, 2003

Schuster Center gives Dayton Opera big boost

Classical music notes


Dayton Opera had a blockbuster season, thanks to its new home in the glamorous $121 million Schuster Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in March.

Dayton's season ended June 30 with a balanced budget of $2.1 million and a 20 percent jump in subscription sales, to 3,200.

"Our first experience was a charmed one," says artistic director Tom Bankston. "You go into a new facility with a bit of apprehension. We were the first theatrical presentation in the hall (with Aida), so we were testing a lot of brand-new systems and operations.

"The most gratifying part was the acoustics in the hall. Not one time did we have to address an issue of balance between the pit and stage."

The year included Dayton Op-era's final performance at Memorial Hall (The Magic Flute), its first Opera Star Gala - a recital by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves - and the Dayton premiere of The Phantom of the Opera.

[IMAGE] A scene from The Magic Flute by the Dayton Opera, which was its final performance at Memorial Hall.
The company's new home has enhanced the opera experience for operagoers, Bankston says. In September, the Schuster Center's new Citilites restaurant, which flows into the Wintergarden, will open for dinner, and will remain open after performances. (It is open for lunch. Executive chef is Paris-trained Jayson Lewellyn.)

"It's so great to be able to come to the Schuster, have dinner and walk up to the performance. The evening won't end when the curtain comes down," Bankston says. "We intend to build on that."

In the coming season, Dayton Opera will mount three productions: La Boheme (Nov. 1, 7 and 9); The Pirates of Penzance, with young artists, in Dayton's 1,100-seat Victoria Theatre (Jan. 16-18, 20-21); and Rigoletto (Feb. 28, March 5 and 7).

The opera gala (April 20 and 22) will star Deborah Voigt, chosen by Musical America as 2003 vocalist of the year. Tickets: (937) 228-3630 or

Paavo steps in

Paavo J”rvi, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra music director, replaced an ill Edo de Waart on Aug. 9 at Tanglewood Music Center, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

J”rvi led the orchestra in Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with soloist Yefim Bronfman, Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain and Sibelius' Symphony No. 5 - the last, a "luminous rendition," said the Boston Herald.

J”rvi will be back in Cincinnati to open the CSO season on Sept. 12-13. Tickets: 381-3300 or visit

Musicians with heart

About 55 musicians of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Orchestra, under conductor Dave Allen, performed "A Musical Tribute to New York City" in the Big Apple on Aug. 2. The group played the free noontime concert in Central Park - celebrating its 150th anniversary this summer - at the Bandshell-on-the-Mall.

"It was a wonderful feeling," says Allen. "There are not too many orchestras that can say they performed in Central Park in New York City."

The Voices of Broadway, including Elder High School grad Michael Heath, Laurie Williamson, Kelli James and Steven Skeels, joined the orchestra for the program, which included Broadway hits and a big band salute.

The orchestra rented two buses to transport musical instruments to New York, and the musicians paid their own airfare.

For the concert, they rented music stands, chairs and and other equipment - money that came from their treasury - "freewill offerings" from Cincinnati concerts.

"It was well worth it," Allen says. "Community orchestras are things people do because they love the music."

The orchestra performs a free concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Tower Park, Fort Thomas. The fall season opens Oct. 26 in Seton High School Performance Hall, the orchestra's home. For information: call 941-8956 or visit

Concerts in the Park

It's time to take out the lawn chairs for a Cincinnati classic: Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops' free Concerts in the Park, Aug. 27-30.

For the first time in two decades, Maestro Kunzel will take the Pops to the Cincinnati Zoo (Aug. 30). That concert includes free parking at the zoo and free admission, beginning at 5 p.m.

The zoo program includes Rossini's Barber of Seville Overture; Bizet's "Flower Song" from Carmen; the Act I finale from La Boheme; Suite from The Phantom of the Opera; and selections from Dr. Doolittle and The Lion King.

The Pops will perform the same program on Aug. 28 at Miami Whitewater Forest.

For Aug. 27 (Northern Kentucky University) and Aug. 29 (Sawyer Point) concerts, the Pops will perform a tribute to Katharine Hepburn, who died June 29.

Aaron Copland's A Lincoln Portrait will feature Hepburn's recorded narration from her 1987 Telarc recording with the Pops.

All concerts are at 7:30 p.m.

The Sawyer Point concert includes fireworks. 381-3300 or visit Web site.


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