The best performances I heard in 2016

12.29.16
James Conlon
Cincinnati Enquirer

An “Otello” for the ages: James Conlon assembled an extraordinary cast for a concert mounting of Verdi's opera "Otello" at the May Festival. The Otello of American tenor Gregory Kunde will be remembered as one of the great portrayals on Music Hall's stage. Equally stunning was Tamara Wilson, a University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music grad, who communicated Desdemona's complex emotions with a ravishing soprano. And the crowd relished the villainous Iago of Latvian bass-baritone Egils Silins. The May Festival Chorus, prepared by Robert Porco, sang with spine-tingling power. On the podium, Conlon was in his element as he vigorously propelled the action. The performance garnered no less than 15 minutes of ovations.

An emotional finish for two eras: The May Festival’s season-ending performance of Mendelssohn’s "Elijah” was bittersweet as Conlon led his final concert and was named music director emeritus. After the final notes of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" had died away, some in the audience – and later in the hallways – were seen wiping their eyes. The standing ovation went on for many minutes, not only for the superb soloists, the May Festival Chorus, Cincinnati Children's Choir and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra musicians who had graced this stage, but also for the music director, who for 37 years stood for excellence in the choral repertoire. Immediately afterward, Music Hall officially closed for a 16-month renovation that will change the treasured hall as many have known it for decades.
 
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