Since March of 2020 and both in Cincinnati and across our country, the performing arts had been in a kind of deep-freeze. Large organizations bled enormous amounts in lost ticket revenues with no end in sight, while artists and administrative personnel barely scraped by financially, some relocating to cities with a lower cost of living, others moving in with parents, while waiting for it all to be over. As 2022 is coming to an end the nightmare appears to be over.
In Cincinnati, a microcosm of the larger national arts debacle, the larger and arguably more financially resilient arts organizations, such as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra returned to business as usual, after having played a limited number of performances to socially distanced audiences with reduced orchestral forces, in shorter, intermission-less concerts.
Summer-arts organizations forged ahead. The Cincinnati Opera and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, both moved their operations back indoors. The Cincinnati Art Museum reopened with reduced hours and no major exhibits, while the Taft Museum and the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park underwent major renovations, with the Playhouse reopening in 2023.
The College-Conservatory of Music –the largest presenter of live arts events in the State of Ohio –implemented ways to make it through the worst of the crisis; it presented digital performances with carefully-distanced or masked students.
Audience members managed to get their arts one way or another by watching on-line performances at home, although everyone ached for the return of the irreplaceable in-person experiences of sitting in a concert hall or a darkened theatre as great art unfolds before one’s eyes and ears.
We bid farewell and good riddance to a difficult couple of years in which the resilience of the arts and the artists who create them continue to fill us with hope.
Here, in random order is a list of highlights of the year 2022:
The season saw the return of live performances. It was a cautious one-step-at-a-time rebirth of concerts, operas, recitals and plays in front of live audiences. It soon came to be the “new normal”, one sometimes calling for proof of vaccination and the wearing of masks before gaining admittance to venues, as was the case at Memorial Hall for concerts of Matinee Musicale Cincinnati. MMC continued to welcome artists of color to its seasons, programming works by minority composers and outpacing other arts institutions that continue to move at a snail’s pace in these areas.
At the College-Conservatory of Music live performances returned little by little, including a superb Marriage of Figaro where all the singers could be heard despite being masked.
There were several people we said goodbye to over the past couple of years, all connected in one way or another to the arts. The death of Stephen Sondheim left a void with so many who in various ways were connected to his music and lyrics, among them Cincinnati’s own Pamela Myers, who shone in the original cast of Company with her warp-speed delivery of “Another 100 people just got off of the train.”
There were changes in Academia and in several arts organizations. Two Opera notables were recruited by CCM to join its Voice faculty: tenor Stuart Skelton and baritone Elliott Madore. LeAnne Anklam and Ann Stewart both members of the management triumvirate that had successfully run the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra for several years resigned within weeks of each other
The choice of artists and repertory from several national arts organizations broadened in significant ways. The Metropolitan Opera opened its season with the first opera by a Black composer in its history: Fire Shut Up My Bones, Terence Blanchard’s adaptation of Charles M. Blow’s memoir of the same title. The MET took a chance and scored an artistic and box office success. Ditto for our Cincinnati Opera which delivered a superb world-premiere production of Gregory Spears’ Castor and Patience.
Starting a new season in its very own space – a flexible black box in which the audience sits just a few feet from the performers – Mutual Dance Theatre, the recently renamed brainchild of artistic director Jeanne Mam-Luft brokered an artistic marriage with the Jefferson James Contemporary Dance Theatre, bringing back first-class modern dance to Cincinnati.
Rafael de Acha © 2022