Blog: Evans Mirageas

Opera season is upon us and what better way to usher in the promise of a new production of Carmen than to hear from Cincinnati Opera's Artistic Director, Evans Mirageas on why Opera is relevant in 2009, what a first Opera experience can hold for the newbie and what a world class Opera company means for Cincinnati.

SoapBlog 3 - Cincinnati's got talent

When I began my work as a consultant with Cincinnati Opera in the fall of 2004, I had a fair sense already of the reputations of both the Opera and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Our flagship musical institutions have rightfully earned their positions of esteem within the international classical music community. For nearly all of my professional life, I've been fortunate enough to live and work in major cities with rich and diverse arts activities--Chicago, Boston, and London. In addition to world class opera and symphony orchestras, all of them also have rich theater cultures and museums for every taste. So, when I was appointed Artistic Director of Cincinnati Opera in the summer of 2005, I made it my priority to get to know the rest of the local arts scene.

What I was not prepared for was the depth, variety, and passionate commitment to the arts that exist in this city, one that is half the size of any other place I've lived. It didn't take long for me to become enamored of something uniquely Cincinnatian—I call it the "box above your weight and bat above your average" phenomenon. If you look at the population statistics, we have no business supporting such an array of arts institutions and at such a level of accomplishment as we do here. What makes this possible is a large group of supporters who take intense pride in Cincinnati, its cultural heritage, and the importance that the arts can have for the overall quality of life in a town. We're also blessed with major educational institutions in the Tristate area, led by UC's College-Conservatory of Music, which act as a magnet to talent from all over the world.

What else did I find?

Three major art museums, each of which is a model of its type of institution: the grand and beautiful Cincinnati Art Museum, a cutting edge architectural marvel in the Contemporary Arts Center, and one of the finest "family" collections in The Taft.

An impressive tradition of classical and contemporary dance, spearheaded by Cincinnati Ballet.

A professional theater scene whose largest constituent, Playhouse in the Park, creates Tony Award-winning theater. (Is there any more canny theatrical impresario in our country today than the Playhouse's Producing Artistic Director Ed Stern? I doubt it.) The Fringe Festival, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Children's Theatre, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Know Theatre … and the list goes on.

And talk about support. We are truly fortunate to have the Fine Arts Fund, a model enterprise that raises millions of dollars (mostly in the workplace) for arts institutions large and small.

If this sounds like a love letter to this town, it is.

Do we have our problems? You bet. Everyone does. There is never enough money to make all our dreams come true, and the present economy has caused all of us who work in the arts to have sleepless nights and nail-biting budget meetings.

But the arts in Cincinnati are here to stay. Those wonderful German and English early settlers brought with them the belief that music and art and theater in particular are simply as important as a strong work ethic and a vibrant life of the spirit. And while our city is now hugely more diverse than in the 19th century, that ethic prevails in the ever-developing and renewing Cincinnati of today.

As I said from the stage of the Aronoff Center just a few weeks ago on the night of our first ever Opera Idol competition, a contest which brought an astonishing amount of accomplished amateur singers to the theater that night: Cincinnati's got talent!