May Festival Concerts Begin May 20

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The Catholic Beat
May 11, 2016

James Conlon will step down at music director for Cincinnati's renowned May Festival at the end of this season, his 35th. Photo courtesy the Cincinnati May Festival.

Cincinnati’s 142nd May Festival concert series will feature sacred music and a concert version of Verdi’s opera Otello this season, which will be the 35th and last for music director James Conlon.

Maestro Conlon’s last season will feature commissioned works, a rarely-performed powerful oratorio by Antonin Dvořák, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, and one of choral music’s most epic compositions: Mendelssohn’s Elijah. In a celebration of and goodbye to Conlon, the season will end with one of classical music’s most popular concert pieces, the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah.

Established in 1873, the May Festival paved the way for Cincinnati’s continuing national leadership in choral music. Music Hall was built to house the Festival’s performances, which feature elite, unpaid adult and children’s choirs performing with nationally and internationally known soloists and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Conlon is the longest-serving music director in the Festival’s 142-year history, and among the longest-serving directors of any classical music institution in the United States.

“After a milestone 35th season culminating with a performance in Carnegie Hall, I decided the 2016 season, which marks the end of my present contract, will be my last as Music Director,” Conlon says. “I am grateful for the almost four decades of music making with the May Festival Chorus, the Cincinnati Symphony and the countless visiting soloists as well as the many personal friendships that have been made in Cincinnati. I am especially indebted to James Levine, who preceded me as Music Director, for introducing me to the Festival.”

This year’s performances will take place at Music Hall and St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington.

May 20, Music Hall: Mozart’s “Great” Mass in C Minor, Ave Verum Corpus and Exsultate Jubiltate
Featuring soprano Lisette Oropesa, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong, tenor Ben Bliss and baritone John Cheek, the May Festival Chorus, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

May 21, Music Hall: Verdi’s Otello
Concert version of Giuseppi Verdi’s opera based on Shakespeare’s Othello
Featuring tenor Gregory Kunde (Otello), soprano Tamara Wilson (Desdemona), baritone Egils Silins (Iago), tenor Ben Bliss (Cassio), mezzo-soprano Sara Murphy (Emilia), tenor Rodrick Dixon (Roderigo) and baritone John Cheek (Lodovico, Montano, the Herald), the May Festival Chorus and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

May 22, Cathedral Concert in Covington
Commissioned works by Julia Adolphe and Alvin Singleotn
Featuring the May Festival, the May Festival Youth Chorus, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

May 27, Music Hall: Dvořák’s Stabat Mater
Featuring soprano Julianna DiGiacomo, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, baritone Kristinn Sigmundsson, the May Festival Chorus and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

May 28, Music Hall: Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”
Featuring soprano Julianna DiGiacomo, mezzo-soprano Sara Murphy, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey and baritone Egils Silins, the May Festival Chorus, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Supertitles will be provided for each Music Hall performance, thanks to a grant from The Corbett Foundation, and all performances will be broadcast on WGUC (FM 90.9) in October, along with rebroadcasts of last year’s May Festival concerts.

“I know of no other festival or classical music institution in the U.S. that has so successfully maintained a great choral tradition: one which brings together a large, highly accomplished non-professional chorus, a world-class professional symphony orchestra and a cadre of internationally recognized soloists,” Conlon says. “Cincinnati can rightfully take pride in having lovingly nurtured its 142-year-old tradition.”

Purchase tickets online at MayFestival.com.
For more about James Conlon’s distinguished conducting career and his tenure with the May Festival, click here.

Photo: Chester Higgins

“He is a miracle of equilibrium: his dramatic intuition never fails, nor betrays the transparency of the music…In full command of his skills, Conlon exudes maturity to his fingertips.”

La Monde de la Musique