Reviews

May Festival 2016

May 20, 2016 - May 28, 2016

On the opening night concert:

“...Leading the authentic-sized Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Conlon’s view had momentum as well as palpable warmth. The result was inspiring. ...The conductor opened with a trio of operatic overtures, starting with Mozart’s youthful Overture from “Lucio Silla,” followed by “Idomeneo” and “The Marriage of Figaro.” It was exuberantly led, and the musicians played with freshness of spirit.”

Cincinnati Enquirer
Janelle Gelfand
May 21, 2016
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On the opening night concert:

“Conlon, who retires this season after 37 years in the post—the longest tenure of any May Festival artistic director – was greeted with acclaim, and rightly so, for his leadership spans some of the most important achievements in its 143-year history.

Music in Cincinnati
Mary Ellyn Hutton
May 22, 2016
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On “Otello”:

“...no one in Saturday’s May Festival audience moved as James Conlon propelled Verdi’s tragic opera “Otello” to its riveting conclusion, followed by 15 minutes of ovations.

...The opera opened with an electrifying jolt, in which Conlon summoned in the orchestra all the tumult of the scene’s violent storm, while the chorus, prepared by Robert Porco, sang with spine-tingling power. ...On the podium, Conlon, obviously in his element, vigorously propelled the action, drew stunning playing from the musicians and supported each soloist with split-second dramatic timing.”

Cincinnati Enquirer
Janelle Gelfand
May 22, 2016
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On “Otello”:

“James Conlon conducted the concert performance with the assurance and sensitivity that a career-long love affair with opera allows him to bring to the podium. His passion in leading the orchestra and May Festival choruses (both adult and children’s groups) elicited a full operatic sound from all.”

Seen and Heard International
Rafael de Acha
May 23, 2016
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On the Cathedral Basilica concert:

“With light streaming through its stained glass windows, it is a stunning to place to hear music, and the smaller choral and instrumental forces add to the intimate experience. ...The vocal music was interrupted by melodic fragments for oboe and cello, and Conlon’s spacious tempo gave it a feeling of floating.”

Cincinnati Enquirer
Janelle Gelfand
May 24, 2016
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On “Stabat Mater”:

“The orchestral introduction was dark and deeply lyrical, and Conlon effectively whipped up touches of drama. ...Conlon’s tempos were serene and relaxed, and he seamlessly balanced the work’s mixture of grandeur and intimacy. Every word of the text had meaning, yet the conductor never lost sight of the flow of the piece. In the end, there was a directness to his approach that made it quite moving.”

Cincinnati Enquirer
Janelle Gelfand
May 28, 2016
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On “Elijah”:

“Presiding over a stunning array of soloists and a chorus that was magnificently prepared by Robert Porco, Conlon propelled Mendelssohn’s music with a tension and power that were electrifying. His energized leadership didn’t flag all evening, starting with the vivid drama of the orchestral overture.

...It was a riveting journey. Conlon imaginatively brought out details of Mendelssohn’s orchestral tone painting in sweeping scenes of the drought-stricken people of Israel, the worship of Baal, celestial visions, Elijah’s flight into the desert and his final ascent into heaven.  He led with fervor and momentum, yet also seamlessly communicated the reverent beauty of the biblical story. The orchestra’s playing was refined from beginning to end.”

Cincinnati Enquirer
Janelle Gelfand
May 29, 2016
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On “Elijah”:

“A standing ovation and a hail of applause greeted James Conlon as he walked out on the Music Hall stage May 28– before he conducted a single note. ...Conlon led with mastery and control throughout. Textures were transparent, ensemble was precise, and he gave clear expression to the text’s conflicting emotions, whether calm or impassioned.  Balances between the Chorus and the orchestra were excellent.”

Music in Cincinnati
Mary Ellyn Hutton
May 30, 2016

Photo: Chester Higgins