The world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra performs at Severance Hall in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood.

Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Foundation team up to offer free tickets to gala concert

Staff report

A chance to see the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra for free would be music to the ears of many Northeast Ohioans – and this weekend, they’ll have an opportunity to score free tickets.

In celebration of The Cleveland Orchestra’s 100th season, the orchestra and the Cleveland Foundation are partnering to provide 1,000 free tickets to the orchestra’s gala concert at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at Severance Hall in Cleveland.

Under the direction of Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, themed “A Musical Journey through Italy,” the Orchestra’s one-night-only program of popular selections will include Verdi’s Ballet Music from “Don Carlo,” Respighi’s “The Birds,” Johann Strauss’s “The Carnival of Venice” and Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio Italien.”

The tickets will be distributed to the public on a first-come, first-served basis at 10 a.m. on Sept. 30. Tickets can be requested via the orchestra’s website using the promo code “GALA” at the checkout or via the Severance Hall Ticket Office at 216-231-1111. The orchestra recommends using the website for ticket requests due to the high volume of calls anticipated.

Ticket requests are limited to two tickets per household and will be available until all tickets have been reserved. Attendees are encouraged to use the orchestra’s mobile ticketing option, which provides electronic tickets directly in the order confirmation email for easy viewing and scanning on mobile devices.

Tickets may also be picked up in person at the Severance Hall box office Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and the day of the concert beginning at 10 a.m.

“Our 100th season represents a milestone anniversary, not just for The Cleveland Orchestra itself but for the community that created it. We are grateful for the Cleveland Foundation’s long-term partnership in expanding access to great music throughout our community,” said André Gremillet, The Cleveland Orchestra’s executive director, in a statement. “The foundation’s tremendous support inspires us daily in our commitment to fulfill the promise of this amazing community who created The Cleveland Orchestra, through quality, sharing, education and celebration.”

Inviting the Greater Cleveland community to experience the gala concert highlights the special role the Cleveland Foundation, through its donors, continues to play in supporting Cleveland’s hometown Orchestra — and its commitment to sharing more music with more people. In the past four decades, the Cleveland Foundation has granted more than $38 million to the orchestra, including a $10 million grant in 2013 as part of the orchestra’s “Sound for the Centennial” campaign — the largest single grant to an arts organization in the foundation’s history.

“The Cleveland Orchestra is a true treasure, not only here in Cleveland but throughout the world,” said Ronn Richard, Cleveland Foundation president and CEO, in a statement. “They were a wonderful partner during our centennial celebration in 2014, and now we’re delighted to be able to help the Orchestra celebrate 100 years in our community.” CV


LEAD IMAGE: The world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra performs at Severance Hall in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. PHOTO | Roger Mastroianni / The Cleveland Orchestra

Cleveland Orchestra Music Director, Franz Welser-Möst, leads the Orchestra in the 2014 production of Janáček’s opera, “The Cunning Little Vixen” at Severance Hall. Photo / Roger Mastroianni

Cleveland Orchestra begins 100th season with ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’

By Bob Abelman

The 2014 Cleveland Orchestra’s premiere of Leoš Janáček’s opera, “The Cunning Little Vixen,” – the innovative made-for-Severance Hall opera described by The New York Times as “ingenious” – is being revived to open the orchestra’s 100th season.

Created and directed by Yuval Sharon in collaboration with music director Franz Welser-Möst, the limited-run encore production will once again juxtapose state-of-the-art digital animation by Walter Robot Studios with live performance from featured singers, the Cleveland Orchestra chorus and the children’s chorus. 

The performance will be sung in Czech, with projected English supertitles.

The opera details the adventures of a clever fox cub. She’s captured by the local forester, grows up on his farm, and then escapes back to the woods to raise a family. This tale has much to say about the cyclical nature of life and death.  

On the rare occasions when the highly theatrical “Vixen” has been mounted since its world premiere in 1924, the cast dons full-body costumes to portray the animals. As he did with the 2014 production, Sharon follows suit but has dispensed with sets in favor of digital animation.

All that will be seen of the Vixen (Martina Janková), the mezzo-soprano fox, woodpecker and rooster (Jennifer Johnson Cano, Sandra Ross and Clarissa Lyons, respectively), the soprano hen, grasshopper and frog (Marian Vogel, Miranda Scholl and Caroline Bergan, respectively), the tenor mosquito (David Cangelosi) and the bass-baritone badger (Dashon Burton) when the spaces they inhabit are depicted on screens are their faces.

Making her Cleveland Orchestra debut in this production is Daryl Freedman, a Jewish mezzo-soprano who will be playing Lapák the dog. 

“‘The Cunning Little Vixen’ is such an ensemble show,” Freedman said. “I am so excited for us all to develop our characters together in this captivating and beautiful production and to discover how my Lapák can incorporate both the playful, frisky qualities of a pup and the seriousness of the artist he believes himself to be.

Under Welser-Möst’s direction, the Cleveland Orchestra has been re-establishing itself as an important operatic ensemble, beginning in 2008 with five sold-out performances of a staged production of Dvorák’s opera “Rusalka.”

“We take risks, we don’t shy away from being creative, we actually go for it,” he said in a news release.  “The city of Cleveland and The Cleveland Orchestra especially are places for innovation and creativity, and our production of Janáček’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’ is one of the most outstanding examples of what we have done.”  

In October, the groundbreaking “Vixen” will be performed as part of the Orchestra’s upcoming European tour to Hamburg, Linz, Luxembourg, Paris, and Vienna. At Vienna’s Musikverein, the performance will make history as the first fully-staged opera presented there since the concert hall opened in 1870. 

On stage

Janacek’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’

WHEN: 8 pm, Sept. 23, Sept. 24 and Sept. 26

WHERE: Severance Hall, 11001 Euclid Ave., Cleveland

TICKETS & INFO: $41-$165, go to clevelandorchestra.com or call 216-231-1111


Bob Abelman covers professional theater and cultural arts for the Cleveland Jewish News. Follow Bob at Facebook.com/BobAbelman3. 2017 Ohio AP Media Editor’s best columnist.

Originally published in the Cleveland Jewish News on September 15, 2017.

Lead image: Cleveland Orchestra Music Director, Franz Welser-Möst, leads the Orchestra in the 2014 production of Janáček’s opera, “The Cunning Little Vixen” at Severance Hall. Photo / Roger Mastroianni

DANCECleveland brings in nationally recognized dance companies like the contemporary Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo, which exemplifies a minimalistic approach to dance.

Home to a variety of theater, classical music and dance offerings, Northeast Ohio stages are in the spotlight

By Alyssa Schmitt

With scores of stages from Cleveland to Akron and Canton – and in many of the suburbs in between – Northeast Ohio is bursting at the seams with dance, theater and classical music offerings.

So much so, in fact, Karen Gahl-Mills, CEO and executive director of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, one of the largest public funders of arts and culture in the U.S., says the thriving region performs at a level higher than might be expected of it.

“When you look at the list of all the organizations we fund – much less everything that’s out there – we do seem like we have more stuff, more stages, more organizations doing more work here than really belies a city of our size,” Gahl-Mills says.

That the area is experiencing this boom is in part a result of previous generations making arts part of the region’s foundation. To that point, several institutions are celebrating milestone anniversaries, including The Cleveland Orchestra, whose upcoming 2017-18 season marks its centennial anniversary.

The world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra performs at Severance Hall in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood.

The world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra performs at Severance Hall in Cleveland’s University
Circle neighborhood. Photo by Roger Mastroianni / The Cleveland Orchestra

“Cleveland used to be a city of a million people, so many of our cultural institutions are celebrating 100th anniversaries over the course of the last five and next five years,” Gahl-Mills says. “That speaks to those institutions being built at a time when Cleveland was a much bigger city with a much larger population. And it was a population of folks who really did believe that having arts and culture in your community needed to be part of your community’s DNA. It was a way to speak of yourself as a world city.”

The idea that Cleveland is a world-class arts city may sound foreign to outsiders, but compared to stage scenes in New York City or Chicago, Cleveland’s large and vibrant performance arts culture – and its focus on community – stack up quite well, says Clyde Simon, co-founder and art director of convergence-continuum, a Cleveland theater company that calls Tremont’s Liminis Theatre home.

“Since (convergence-continuum) started (in 2000), the theater scene in Cleveland has really grown,” Simon says. “In terms of quality, we’re definitely there. The productions that I’ve seen in those other places and the ones I’ve seen in Cleveland are equal in quality, and we’re being recognized outside of the area for such things. Cleveland has been getting some national attention beyond our own city limits.”

Quality guides the livelihood of Cleveland’s stages, but the secret to its growing audience is accessibility. Nationally known productions run through Cleveland often. Those who can’t afford to make the trip to New York City to see a renowned play or musical – chances are – can see it in Cleveland.

“Five Flights” transformed the entire theater space at convergence-continuum’s Liminis Theatre in Cleveland into the interior of an abandoned aviary.

“Five Flights” transformed the entire theater space at convergence-continuum’s Liminis Theatre in Cleveland into the interior of an abandoned aviary.

“We have a lot of offerings that, (in) many cities, you don’t necessarily have the opportunity to experience,” says Sarah Hricko, marketing manager at DANCECleveland, a stand-alone, dance-only presenter based in Cleveland’s Shaker Square neighborhood. “We’re able to provide, at DANCECleveland, the ability for people to see world-class dance performances that in many places people would have to drive really far to get to, or in New York for example, you’re going to be spending at least double what you pay for tickets here.”

The Cleveland Orchestra has also increased accessibility in recent years. In addition to regularly performing at Severance Hall in Cleveland and Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, the orchestra has participated in neighborhood residences in Lakewood and Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway, Slavic Village and Hough neighborhoods. By performing in more familiar environs, the orchestra is able to present its world-renowned performances to audiences that may not otherwise get to experience them, says Justin Holden, Cleveland Orchestra’s director of public relations.

“Providing access, in general, in different settings – whether it’s smaller ensembles or outside of a concert hall – just helps,” Holden says. “I think that when people are asked to connect with it simply as great music and great artists performing, then it’s easier for them to have an experience that’s meaningful to them.”

Many organizations are also engaging audiences over and above an evening’s main performance. Pre-show talks explaining the history of the production, classes in which audiences can interact with performers and Q&A sessions allowing audience members to speak directly to creative talent are all common ways connections are being built.

“We want to try to make sure that not only are you seeing the show, but you’re getting to interact before and after the show as well,” Hricko says. “It’s all about creating different experiences for different people.”

Each stage is unique, which may make it challenging (in a good way) when deciding what to see, but from dance to classical music to theater, there’s no shortage of options.

“There’s a real variety in Cleveland of really different types of theaters, both physically and the kind of things they produce,” Simon says. “There’s a real wealth of theater and you can’t see everything in one week … you’re going to miss stuff because there’s so much going on now.” CV

On stage

The Cleveland Orchestra

The Cleveland Orchestra’s Gala Concert will take place Oct. 7 and serve as the celebratory kick-off to launch Second Century initiatives at the start of the ensemble’s 100th season. For more, visit clevelandorchestra.com.

convergence-continuum

Performances of “Rhinoceros” (Aug. 25 – Sept. 16) and “In the Closet” (Oct. 13 – Nov. 4) will take place at Liminis Theatre. For more, visit convergence-continuum.org.

DANCECleveland

A performance by the Koresh Dance Company will take place Oct. 1 at The University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall, and a performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company will take place Nov. 11 at Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre. For more, visit dancecleveland.org.


Lead image: DANCECleveland brings in nationally recognized dance companies like the contemporary Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo, which exemplifies a minimalistic approach to dance. Photo by Jose Luiz Pederneiras / DANCECleveland

“At the Movies” at Severance Hall. Photo | Courtesy of The Cleveland Orchestra

Updated takes on stage classics draw tepid responses

By Bob Abelman

“Don’t throw the past away/
You might need it some rainy day”

– From “Everything Old is New Again”
1974 Song by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager

There were times early in the last century when ingenuity embraced the visual and performing arts, enhanced its artistry and expanded the audience.

Those days are here again, but to curiously mixed reviews.

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Live-captured broadcasting. Photo | Courtesy of National Theatre Live

Live-captured broadcasting. Photo | Courtesy of National Theatre Live

In the early-1920s, in order to fill the silence before talkies and bring out the emotion of what was being said but needed to be read, many movie theaters employed a live pianist, organist or small orchestra to accompany their films.

In the spirit of this act of creative enrichment, but on steroids, the December installment of the “At the Movies” series at Severance Hall offered a screening of Frank Capra’s monochromatic classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” with a live symphonic performance of the film’s original underscoring by the world-class Cleveland Orchestra. Included were 40 minutes of found music written by composer Dimitri Tiomkin that were cut from the original release of the movie.

The Cleveland Orchestra offered a richer and more vibrant experience than Frank Capra could have ever have imagined or that any audience ever encountered in the 70 years since the film’s release. And yet, there were those in attendance who felt that the live accompaniment was overkill and who found that the now-somber underscoring of assorted scenes detracted from the light and happy feeling we’ve come to expect from this holiday staple.

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Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin, at left, Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad, Ephraim Sykes as Seaweed J. Stubbs. Photo | Justin Lubin, NBC

Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin, at left, Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad, Ephraim Sykes as Seaweed J. Stubbs. Photo | Justin Lubin, NBC

Back in the 1930s, Broadway productions were often re-staged for film and turned into feature-length movies, bringing professional theater to places where professional theater didn’t exist.

Today, sites such as iTunes, Amazon Video, Netflix and GooglePlay stream filmed musicals and plays to phones, computers and tablets. Last year, a production of the acclaimed revival “She Loves Me” was the first in a series of Broadway, Off-Broadway and London West End shows to be streamed live or live-captured on the internet by the new online subscription service BroadwayHD.

And yet, many theater purists have been unreceptive to these ventures, condemning them for reducing the heightened reality of a stage production to the size of an iPhone screen and turning the communal experience of theatergoing into a socially isolating event.

◊◊

During the early days of television, live hour-long anthology series such as “Studio One” and “The Philco Television Playhouse” offered original stage plays. In 1955, as part of its “Producers’ Showcase,” a live NBC broadcast of the Broadway musical “Peter Pan” drew 65 million viewers.

Just last month, NBC launched its fourth modern-era live musical event, “Hairspray Live!,” preceded by “The Sound of Music Live!” in 2013, “Peter Pan Live!” in 2014, “The Wiz Live!” in 2015 and Fox’s broadcast of “Grease: Live!” early in 2016. The highly promoted $10 million production of “Hairspray Live!” employed 13 digital cameras, a cast and crew of 700, and the massive soundstages of Universal Studios in California.

And yet, with 8.9 million viewers, “Hairspray Live!” was the lowest rated of them all. Even the audience for “Peter Pan Live!” (9.2 million) paled by comparison to the musical’s 1955 broadcast. The press blamed the chasm that exists between old-school stories and the new, highly obtrusive digital modes of storytelling. In particular, The New York Times called out these productions for their “inability to leave any lily ungilded, to direct a scene without tilting or hurtling or throwing the camera around.”

◊◊

The evolution of entertainment, it seems, can be uncomfortable for those of us who recall with great fondness the primordial soup of traditional storytelling – when theater looked like theater, when TV looked like TV, and when film looked like film. New enrichments to old art forms are as awkward an assault on our senses as when color was added to motion pictures, when microphones were first worn by stage actors, and when television screens started growing to 65” with 2160p resolution and Ultra HD.

But change can be a good thing. Freeing live theater from the proscenium arch and making it available on multiple platforms, for instance, offers the best seats in the house to everyone in the virtual audience. And while creative and technical risk-taking involves some degree of failure – and there was plenty of that in “Hairspray Live!” – the next attempt will know which risks to keep and which ones not to repeat.

So give change a chance.

Take in the February edition of “At the Movies” at Severance Hall, where the Cleveland Orchestra will do justice to Henry Mancini’s legendary score for the romantic comedy “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Subscribe to BroadwayHD. The live streaming of “Holiday Inn: The New Irving Berlin Musical” begins Jan. 14.

Attend March’s NT Live’s broadcast of Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan” at the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights.

And hope for the best rather than expect the worst from NBC’s “Bye Bye Birdie Live!” coming to TV and computer screens in December 2017.


Originally published in the Cleveland Jewish News on Jan. 2, 2017.

Bob Abelman covers professional theater and cultural arts for the Cleveland Jewish News. Follow Bob at Facebook.com/BobAbelman3.

Lead image: “At the Movies” at Severance Hall. Photo | Courtesy of The Cleveland Orchestra