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Cleveland Orchestra touts opera festival, balanced budget at annual meeting

A sunny day outside of the large, stone entrance to Severance Hall in University Circle
Tim Harrison
/
Ideastream Public Media
The Cleveland Orchestra says overall fundraising is up after several challenging years during the pandemic.

Cleveland Orchestra President André Gremillet announced a new festival coming next year during Wednesday night's annual meeting of the Musical Arts Association, which manages the orchestra. The inaugural Mandel Opera & Humanities Festival will run May 13-20, 2023.

"The goal is to use the opera presentation that we have every year and to draw a theme," he said.

This year’s theme - "The American Dream" - grew from Puccini’s "The Girl of the Golden West," which will be performed three times during the festival.

"The opera is a function of the [Old West], where the story is about the California Gold Rush," he said. "We will program some concerts around the opera that will feature some composers who have either benefited from the American Dream and have achieved it, or in other cases have been excluded from that dream. From the humanities side, it's really exploring that theme. What does that mean? Who is able to achieve that dream? Who isn't?"

The orchestra's partners include Karamu House, the City Club, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Library and other institutions. Additional programming will be announced in February.

"We're not experts in the humanities by any means. We will be working with people who are," he said.

Financial health

The Musical Arts Association compared financial results for the past two fiscal years, which show a balanced budget for the fourth year in a row despite the lingering effects of the pandemic.

"It's not to be taken for granted," Gremillet said. "We did have to do some cost-cutting measures, some extraordinary fundraising, but also some government support."

The cost-cutting included temporary, across-the-board salary reductions.

"No one lost their job because of position reduction during the pandemic, something we're very proud of," he said. "That was the right thing to do for the people [and] the institution."

Gremillet said they are bracing for any future complications due to the pandemic.

"We knew that it would take time for people to come back," he said. "That's what we're currently experiencing."

Many of those fans have experienced the orchestra digitally, something which Gremillet said they were planning even before 2020.

"We have many fans around the world," he said. "They cannot be at Severance every week, so [streaming is] a way for them to hear these concerts."

The orchestra plans to offer added digital content so that streaming can be seen as a supplement to, instead of a replacement for, the live experience for audiences.

"They can use some documentary content that we're putting together that really talks about the music, about the artists, about the story that's behind this great orchestra," he said. "I think that's by far the most interesting piece. How do you explain that one of the world's greatest orchestras is here in Cleveland, Ohio?”

Schedule of events for the inaugural Mandel Opera & Humanities Festival

‘Ellis Island: The Dream of America’

April 18-21 (pre-festival)

The Cleveland Orchestra will present seven performances of education concerts for Cleveland area students grades 6 to 12. A multimedia work for orchestra, “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” honors the immigrant experience with a combination of music, narration and historic images. It traces the experiences of seven immigrants from seven countries on their way to America, beginning in the early parts of the past century.

Free Community Choral Concert

Saturday, May 13

Time, details of performers and program to be announced.

‘The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West)’

Sunday, May 14 at 3:00 p.m. (Cleveland Orchestra premiere)

Wednesday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 20 at 8:00 p.m.

The American Dream Festival Concert 1

Thursday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Scott Joplin: Overture to Treemonisha Overture

Julia Perry: Short Piece for Orchestra

Julius Eastman: Symphony No. 2

William Grant Still: Darker America

Bernard Herrmann: Suite from Vertigo

The American Dream Festival Concert 2

Friday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Raven Chacon: Voiceless Mass

Thomas Adès: America: A Prophecy with Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano

Edgar Varèse: Amériques (1929 version)

All programs and artists are subject to change. Additional programming is to be announced next year.

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Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.