From Cincinnati.com and Janelle Gelfand
Arts in Focus
Opera returns to the Zoo — for a night
by Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer
Opera fans flocked to the Zoo.
Cincinnati Opera went back to the Zoo Wednesday night for its second (and what we hope will be annual) evening of arias and animals. What fun it was to see a parade of animals at the end — including a small kangaroo, bearcat, peacock, eagle and llamas — as the fine cast of CCM Opera singers sang “Talk to the Animals,” to the delight of the sold-out crowd of all ages.
The opera gave away more than 1,200 free tickets to the event. Many attended opera when it was at the Zoo; some had never been to an opera. The company, of course, played to huge summertime crowds – and competed with sometimes screeching Zoo animals — from 1920 until it moved into Music Hall in 1972.
Zoo director Thane Maynard and Cincinnati Opera director Evans Mirageas shared hosting duties in the Great American Wings of Wonder Amphitheatre. Mirageas pointed out that the actual opera stage was where Gibbon Island now stands. And Maynard gave tidbits on the fauna, such as Eric the Eagle (Eddie his trainer told us about his incident of “projectile evacuation” during a dress rehearsal for Aida in Music Hall), Lucy the Bearcat, Homer the Barnowl, one of Cathryn Hilker’s cheetahs and more.
The singers — Tyler Alessi (baritone); Davia Bandy (mezzo); Timothy J. Bruno (bass); Jacqueline A. Echols (soprano); and Wesley Lawrence (tenor) were terrific in music from Carmen, Manon Lescaut, The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, The Gondoliers, Eugene Onegin and more. Echols wowed in “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess,” and Lawrence channeled Pavarotti in a Neapolitan song, ‘Marechiare.” Carol Walker was the able accompanist.
On June 27, 1920, Cincinnati Opera presented its first opera, a production of Martha, in an outdoor pavilion at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. For the next half-century, performances at the Cincinnati Zoo Pavilion filled a 10-week season that regularly featured some of the most legendary singers of the 20th century—Plácido Domingo, Norman Treigle, Beverly Sills, Sherrill Milnes, Montserrat Caballé, James Morris, and Roberta Peters, to name a few. Cincinnati Opera moved to Music Hall in 1972, but the partnership between the Opera and the Zoo continues to the present day.
The event was sponsored by the Marge & Charles J. Schott Foundation.