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Annual May Festival kicks off with Beethoven's Ninth

The annual Cincinnati May Festival kicks off next week on Friday, May 19 at the Taft Theatre in downtown Cincinnati. The choral festival, the oldest of its kind on the continent, will incorporate choral masterpieces performed by the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) alongside world-renowned guest conductors and soloists, as well as an immersive new concert experience dubbed “The Dream Project” curated by 2017 May Festival Creative Partner Gerard McBurney. [Dream Project Online Trailer]

May Festival Opening Night – Friday, May 19, 2017

The 2017 May Festival opens with a program featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a work as beloved and recognizable as the composer himself. Markus Stenz, who serves as both Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and Principal Guest Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, will lead the May Festival Chorus, CSO and soloists. Mr. Stenz regularly conducts some of the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies, and previously conducted the CSO in 2001. The concert opens with the May Festival premiere of Walter Braunfels’ Te Deum, a work that powerfully articulates the composer’s spiritual journey after his return from the front lines of World War I.

The 2017 May Festival Artist-in-Residence, and Musical America’s 2017 Vocalist of the Year, bass- baritone Eric Owens will be joined by three soloists making their May Festival debuts: soprano Carolyn Sampson (a regular guest with renowned orchestras across the U.S. and Europe), mezzo- soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano (who has previously performed with Cincinnati Opera in Cavalli’s Calisto and the CSO in Handel’s Messiah, and returns to the CSO for Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis Oct. 27 & 29, 2016) and tenor Thomas Cooley (another recent guest with Cincinnati Opera in Kevin Puts’ Silent Night).

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Festival continues with the first installment of the “Dream Project,” featuring Mendelssohn’s complete A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a dramatic realization curated by Mr. McBurney, known for his work with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s “Beyond the Score” series. Actors and spoken word will enhance Shakespeare’s drama as it unfolds with the incidental music, along with projections designed by Mike Tutaj. The concert opens with two of Vaughan Williams’ works with Shakespearean connections: Serenade to Music, which takes its text from The Merchant of Venice, and Three Shakespeare Songs. Matthew Halls, Artistic Director of the Oregon Bach Festival, conducts the May Festival Chorus and the CSO in this performance. Mr. Halls’ energetic interpretations of both operatic and orchestral repertoire have brought him into high demand in concert halls in both North America and Europe.

Sunday, May 21, 2017The May Festival Chorus and May Festival Youth Chorus, under the direction of Mr. Porco and James Bagwell, respectively, return to the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, KY. The annual concert highlights the exquisite space and features radiant choral works by Palestrina, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bach and more.

Tickets for the 2017 May Festival are on sale now and start at $12. Subscribers receive discounts and other benefits including free guaranteed parking compliments of Western & Southern Financial Group. For both subscriptions and single tickets, visit mayfestival.com or call the Box Office at (513) 381-3300.