CINCINNATI, OH — Cincinnati Opera closed its 2012 Summer Festival on July 28 with a sold-out performance of Verdi’s classic romance La Traviata. The company’s 92nd season was remarkable for enthusiastic critical and audience response, thrilling performances, and beautiful productions, including the first-ever presentation of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which set company records for ticket income and attendance.
The 2012 Summer Festival featured four operas in three productions at Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium: a double bill of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (June 14 & 16), The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (June 28 & 30, July 6 & 8), and Verdi’s La Traviata (July 26 & 28).
Total attendance for the season’s eight mainstage performances was 21,625. Income earned from ticket sales was $1.49 million, exceeding the season’s income goal by 6%. The final performances of both Porgy and Bess (July 8 ) and La Traviata (July 28 ) sold out. Average per-performance attendance was 2,703, an increase of more than 7 percent from the 2011 season. With this success, Cincinnati Opera is currently projecting a surplus on its operating budget for the 2012 fiscal year; the company’s fiscal year ends on August 31, 2012, after which final figures will be available. In 2011, the company had posted a deficit for the first time in 22 years, in the amount of almost $300,000.
“I must credit the ingenuity of Cincinnati Opera’s board and staff for their tireless work throughout the year to ensure we ended in the black,” said Patricia K. Beggs, General Director & CEO of Cincinnati Opera. “We went into this season having taken several deep cuts to our budget — including staffing and expense reductions — while maintaining focus on delivering beautiful, magical, and thrilling experiences on the stage, and connecting to the community in a meaningful way. We are so grateful to our patrons for demonstrating their support of the Opera by attending performances, donating generously, and sharing their enthusiasm for the company and the art form.”
The 2012 season saw the company’s first-ever production of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, an unqualified triumph. The production exceeded both its income and attendance goals, and set a record with the third-highest attendance of an opera production in Music Hall, just behind Carmen (2004) and Aida (2007).
From July 4 to 14, Cincinnati was honored to be the first U.S. city to host the World Choir Games. The Games drew 15,000 participants from more than 60 countries, presenting concerts and competitions in venues throughout the city. In order to accommodate the Games’ performances at Music Hall, Cincinnati Opera made room in its season schedule by presenting three productions instead of its usual four.
“When Cincinnati was chosen to host the World Choir Games, we knew 2012 would be the perfect opportunity to finally stage Porgy and Bess,” said Evans Mirageas, The Harry T. Wilks Artistic Director of the company. “What better way to welcome thousands of international visitors, than to present the greatest American opera?”
Cincinnati Opera attracted visitors from 36 states, and at least ten foreign countries were represented in the audience, over twice as many as in the 2011 season. Cincinnati Opera scheduled the second weekend of performances of Porgy and Bess as its contribution to the World Choir Games, and the opera appealed to international visitors from such far-flung nations as China, Australia, Namibia, Romania, and Japan. Cincinnati Opera also sponsored the performances of mainstage season cast members in both the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games. Almost 1,750 student tickets were sold during the season, with 1,020 students attending Porgy and Bess.
María de Buenos Aires, a “tango operita” by Argentinian composer Ástor Piazzolla, was presented in a special co-production by Cincinnati Opera, concert:nova, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on July 25 & 27. The two performances in the Music Hall Ballroom sold out over one month in advance.
PORGY AND BESS COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITIES
Porgy and Bess was the main focus of the company’s education and community engagement efforts throughout the year. Cincinnati Opera reached 6,300 people with its production of “Porgy and Bess Redux,” a 45-minute version of the opera, at six public performances and a tour of schools and community centers throughout the tri-state area. The cast of young artists also performed at Sunday morning services at churches in Forest Park and Covington, Kentucky. This outreach continued during the summer season, when several members of the mainstage Porgy and Bess cast performed during the Sunday morning services of five area churches.
The company offered several free events to engage the public in learning more about the opera. In April, Cincinnati Opera partnered with the YWCA to present “Life as Bess,” a panel discussion exploring the challenges faced by the character. In June, the cast and creative team discussed the opera and its history at two events attracting over 200 people.
CINCINNATI OPERA IN THE COMMUNITY
In partnership with Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Cincinnati Opera presented the third annual Back to the Zoo concert on July 10, a free performance for a capacity crowd at the Zoo’s Wings of Wonder Theater.
Opera Goes to Church!™, a free concert series incorporating classical, sacred, gospel, and jazz music, performed its seventh annual concert at Allen Temple A.M.E. Church in Bond Hill on June 18. New this year, Cincinnati Opera partnered with Rockdale Temple for the first Opera Goes to Temple!™ concert on July 22, to great success. The concerts, produced in partnership with the host congregations, played to capacity crowds.
The 22nd annual Community Open Dress Rehearsal took place July 24 at the final dress rehearsal of La Traviata and provided the opportunity for diverse community groups, families, and children to experience opera for the first time. Over 2,100 tickets were distributed for the event.
The 6th annual Pride Night Celebration, welcoming the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual) community, featured an after-party following the June 16 performance of Pagliacci | Gianni Schicchi. At the circus-themed event, the Dabby Blatt Friend of Diversity Award was presented to Cathy Crain, chairman of the Cincinnati Opera board of trustees and an unswerving supporter of diversity in all forms.
The season ended with Music Hall in the Park, a rare joint performance of Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet, May Festival, and Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, to celebrate the opening of the renovated Washington Park. The concert was presented by the participating arts groups in collaboration with the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC).
Said Beggs, “I believe we can say proudly that we’ve made an impact that reaches far beyond the walls of Music Hall with our concerts in Washington Park, the Zoo, churches, and Rockdale Temple, our touring “Porgy and Bess Redux,” and our many free or low-cost presentations throughout the region.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE 2013 SEASON
The 2013 Summer Festival, which will take place June 13 through July 28, 2013, opens with two operas at Music Hall: Mozart’s masterpiece, Don Giovanni, followed by Strauss’s glorious comic opera Der Rosenkavalier. Then, Cincinnati Opera performs Philip Glass’s Galileo Galilei at its new second stage venue, the Corbett Theater at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. The season closes with Verdi’s grand Aida on the Music Hall stage in the production that captivated audiences in 2007. For the first time, the season will kick off with a free public concert in Washington Park on June 9. All performances feature the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
New subscriptions for the 2013 season go on sale in winter 2013, with single tickets available in spring 2013. For additional 2013 season and casting information, please visit www.cincinnatiopera.org.
Photo Credit: Aimee Sposito Martini