The Cincinnati Opera will be performing “Carmen”, “Tosca” and “Barber” this summer

What a difference a few weeks can make.

On February 25, the Cincinnati Opera’s summer season was uncertain at best. They couldn’t tell us where they would perform. Or when. Or which operas they could stage. They just knew that the season would be outside. Under current pandemic-related guidelines, Music Hall simply couldn’t accommodate enough visitors.

The tension is over. Wednesday morning, the Cincinnati Opera announced that the “redesigned” Summer Festival 2021 will take place from July 11th to 31st on an expansive stage at the foot of the 150-meter-high observation tower in Blue Ash’s Summit Park.

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You will stage three of the most popular works in the operatic repertoire; “Tosca”, “Carmen” and “The Barber of Seville” – the same three operas that should have been the centerpiece of the company’s 100th anniversary season in 2020, which has been canceled.

“Like everyone else, I would love to be in the Music Hall,” said Evans Mirageas, the opera’s artistic director. “But safety has to come first. What could be nicer than spending a warm summer evening in the park? We are going back to our roots in a strange way. “

It refers to the Cincinnati Opera’s early years, when the company performed most of its first 50 seasons in a large pavilion at the Cincinnati Zoo. The company’s last performance there was on July 24, 1971.

There is much that will be known about the Summer Festival. The Cincinnati Opera Chorus and longtime choirmaster Henri Venanzi will be there, as will a 40-piece ensemble from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. There will also be great singers, including J’Nai Bridges, Stephen Costello, Ana María Martínez and Morris Robinson, who is also the artistic advisor to the Cincinnati Opera.

But there will be changes. To ensure social distancing in the audience, the operas will only be 90 minutes long without interruptions. Without interruption, people have fewer opportunities to penetrate other people’s rooms. And while there will be the usual complement of costumes and stage lighting, there won’t be any of the lavish sets that are a hallmark of great operas. For some purists, this could be a deal breaker. But Mirageas urges the naysayers to be patient.

“Opera is all about storytelling. While we can tell our stories through another lens, the stories will be there. And the great music. I guarantee you can hum all of your favorite songs. There will be no cicadas either. We have investigated the situation. As far as we know, they should all be gone by June 20th and 25th. “

Before settling on Summit Park, the opera considered several large rooms in the greater Cincinnati area, including the Cincinnati Zoo and Stargel Stadium at Taft High School.

“The opera contacted our city manager David Waltz in mid-January,” said Dan Guthrie, superintendent of Blue Ash Recreation. “We knew they were thinking about other places. And we’ve had some complications. “

For example, if Blue Ash had a meeting on July 4th, as it has done in the past, it would leave the opera just a week before its opening night.

“But in the end we were able to find solutions to these complications,” Guthrie said.

Summit has plenty of space for visitors – up to 1,500 people per performance -, plenty of parking nearby, and easy access to the freeways. I-75 is only a mile east and I-275 is two and a half miles north. The audience will sit on the three-acre Great Lawn, which has already been demarcated into 10-foot squares – “pods” – that can seat up to four guests.

In a way, “Summer at Summit”, as the opera calls the festival, offers the best of both worlds. It’s a first-class grand opera. At the same time, viewers can spread their blankets, set up their folding chairs and enjoy a picnic in the park.

The only notable casualties of the outdoor season are the world premieres of William Menefield and Sheila Williams’ “Fierce” and Gregory Spears and Tracy K. Smith’s “Castor and Patience,” which were part of the original 2020 season and have been postponed for this summer.

“Both works are very intimate,” said Mirageas. “I’m afraid that the size of the outside space will flood them. So we decided it would be best to reschedule it. “

“Fierce” is now slated for Fall 2021, while “Castor and Patience” will premiere during the 2022 Summer Festival.

Tickets for the festival range from $ 15 to $ 50. Current subscribers will be informed about options in April. Single tickets will be available to the general public on June 7th. More information is available at

Time schedule

The festival kicks off with a free, family-friendly concert called “Opera in the Park”. It takes place on July 11th at 7:30 pm and includes a selection of opera and musical theater performed by various performers from the summer festival along with the Cincinnati Opera Chorus and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.


July 17th, July 22nd, July 26th, July 30th

With J’Nai Bridges * (Carmen), Stephen Costello (Don Jose), Janai Brugger (Micaëla), Christian Pursell (Escamillo), Burak Bilgili (Zuniga), Victor Ryan Robertson (El Remendado) and Thomas Dreeze (El Dancaïro)


July 23, July 27, July 31

Ana María Martínez * (Floria Tosca), Russell Thomas (Mario Cavaradossi), Quinn Kelsey * (Baron Scarpia), Michael Sumuel (Cesare Angelotti) and Julius Ahn (Spoletta).

“The hairdresser of Seville”

July 24th, July 29th

Rihab Chaieb (Rosina), Aaron Blake (Count Almaviva), Chris Kenney * (Figaro), Reginald Smith Jr. (Doctor Bartolo), Morris Robinson (Don Basilio) and Wendy Hill (Berta).

* Cincinnati Opera debut

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