Outdoor Summer Opera Returns in July

The Cincinnati Opera finds a way to present a summer season by staging streamlined classics at Summit Park in Blue Ash.
J’Nai Bridges will star as Carmen in July at Summit Park. She performed the role previously at San Francisco Opera.

Photograph by Cory Weaver, San Francisco Opera

A year after the pandemic cancelled Cincinnati Opera’s 100th anniversary season, the organization is announcing a tighter, smaller outdoor season July 11–31 at Summit Park in Blue Ash. Audience members will be seated in socially-distanced “pods” on the park’s main lawn in front of a stage constructed at its observation tower.

It’s a return to the Opera’s roots, in a sense, given that summer opera here was performed outdoors for decades at the Cincinnati Zoo. Cincinnati Opera presented its final open-air season at the zoo 50 years ago and moved its subscription performances to Music Hall. Recent seasons have also included shows at the School for Creative and Performing Arts.

“Summer at Summit” features edited 90-minute versions of three classic operas previously announced for the company’s 2020 season: Carmen, Tosca, and The Barber of Seville. Each show will feature internationally renowned singers, the Cincinnati Opera Chorus, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; will be partially staged with costumes, theatrical hair and makeup, and lighting; and will be presented without intermission.

“Music Hall will always be our home, but we are fortunate to have found a gorgeous new venue in Summit Park for our return to the live stage,” says Cincinnati Opera Artistic Director Evans Mirageas in announcing the season. “Audience members can be assured that our Summer at Summit will have all of the hallmarks they’ve come to love about Cincinnati Opera—glorious singing, inspiring storytelling, and the chance to be swept away by the magic of live performance.”

Carmen will be performed four times July 17–30, with mezzo-sporano J’Nai Bridges making her Cincinnati Opera debut in the lead role. Ramón Tebar, music director of the Orquestra de Valencia (Spain) and artistic director of Opera Naples, conducts the CSO.

Tosca will be performed three times July 23–31, featuring soprano Ana María Martínez, also making her Cincinnati Opera debut, in the lead role. Guest conductor will be New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Music Director Xian Zhang, who formerly studied and taught at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music.

The Barber of Seville will be performed July 24 and 29 and feature a number of performers familiar to past Cincinnati Opera audiences, including Rihab Chaieb, Aaron Blake, Reginald Smith Jr., and Morris Robinson. Italian conductor Renato Balsadonna leads the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Rendering of the stage Cincinnati Opera will erect at the base of Summit Park’s observation tower for its 2021 summer productions.

Image provided by Cincinnati Opera

Cincinnati Opera’s free season-opening celebration concert, Opera in the Park, also moves to Summit Park and will kick off the festivities on July 11.

“The promise of experiencing live singing again in the company of an enthusiastic, in-person audience is the dream that has carried us through this last year,” says Cincinnati Opera CEO Christopher Milligan. “We’re grateful to the city of Blue Ash for their partnership as we’ve worked together to envision a one-of-a-kind opera-going experience for our community.”

Tickets for 2021 Summer at Summit shows will start at $15. Current subscribers will be contacted in April with additional information about their ticket options, and single tickets go on sale June 7. Get more information here.

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