Sometimes arts organizations arrive at the theme for their coming season through long deliberations and process. Other times, it’s completely serendipitous.

For the Cincinnati Opera and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, this season was the latter, and what CCO music director Mischa Santora called “a lucky coincidence.”

Santora, who travels frequently to guest conduct orchestras across the world, decided on the Spanish theme while he was sitting around one day. “I do most of my thinking when I’m stuck at airports or in hotel rooms,” he laughs.

Santora chose Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart because he loves opera. He chose Master Peter’s Puppet Show by Manuel de Falla because “it’s been in my head for a long time.”

Opera artistic director Evans Mirageas came up with the idea for a Spanish season while he was speaking with a colleague. “We were talking about how the Ohio River Valley is changing and becoming more diverse,” he says. “I asked him what the Spanish population is like here, and he said it’s growing by leaps and bounds.”

Santora sent Mirageas a courtesy e-mail about CCO’s plans to do Don Giovanni and Master Peter’s Puppet Show. He was surprised when Mirageas immediately replied, saying “That’s fantastic! We’re doing The Marriage of Figaro, Don Carlo, Ainadamar and Carmen.”

Although their seasons had been set, Santora and Mirageas decided to take their collaboration one step further. They reached out to other local arts organizations, telling them of their plans and asking them if they’d like to participate. As of press time, Madcap Puppets, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Taft Museum of Art, The Mercantile Library and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company all have Spanish-themed events planned for the coming months.

Spanish Legends

You’ve never seen a puppet show like this before.

In a small marionette theater, a puppet show depicts the rescue of Charlemagne’s daughter, Melisendra, from the Moors of Saragossa. As the lifesized puppet heroes flee, they’re pursued by the Moors. Suddenly, a member of the audience mistakes the show for reality. He draws his sword and begins dismembering the marionettes.

It takes the audience a few minutes to realize the attacker is himself a puppet. It’s a puppet show squared.

In June, the CCO and Madcap Puppets, one of the largest touring puppet theaters in the country, will collaborate on the regional premiere of Master Peter’s Puppet Show, a puppet-opera in one act based on a chapter from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

Although the CCO and Madcap Puppets have worked together for the past four years on seasonal youth concert performances, the production of Master Peter’s Puppet Show marks their first major collaboration.

The production also marks a departure from Madcap’s usual audience: children.

“This is very different from normal,” says John Lewandowski, Madcap Puppets’ artistic director. “Master Peter’s Puppet Show is not for children and will interest adults because it deals with the power of illusion.”

In June, the CCO will present two programs. The first will feature Master Peter’s Puppet Show and include Gioachino Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture and de Falla’s El Amor Brujo (Ballet Suite). The second program will feature a semi-staged version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, an opera blending comedy and tragedy that tells the story of a young nobleman’s downfall after a life of amorous conquests.

Opera Goes to Spain

For the Opera’s four productions, which run through June and July, audiences can expect a montage of marytrdom for political causes, murder, intrigue, illicit love affairs and sacrifice for friendship.

Although the first, Austrian-born Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, was originally banned in Vienna because of its satire of the aristocracy — considered dangerous in the decade before the French Revolution — it’s become one of Mozart’s most successful works. And, according to Mirageas, it’s “probably one of the greatest comedies ever written.”

The second production, Don Carlo, was an easy pick, Mirageas says, because “opera-goers love (Giuseppe) Verdi.”

Set in the 16th century during the Spanish Inquisition, Don Carlo tells the story of a politically motivated arranged marriage for Don Carlo, the prince of Spain, and Elisabetta of France. Carlo and Elisabetta secretly meet before the state wedding and fall in love, just before the political situation changes and Elisabetta is ordered to marry Don Carlo’s father, Philip II (Filippo) of Spain.

The season’s exploration piece is the regional premiere of Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar, which tells of the murder of playwright Federico García Lorca. The season closes with Georges Bizet’s Carmen, one of the most popular operas ever written about Spain, featuring arias such as such as “Habanera” and “Toreador’s Song.”

The Opera is also partnering with the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Taft Museum of Art and The Mercantile Library to present lectures on each opera. In addition, it’s featuring How Nanita Learned to Make Flan for its Opera Education piece, which will be performed in area schools in May and include two public performances.

French, anyone?

While no plans are set yet for future themed collaborations, Santora and Mirageas agree that the more organizations pitch in to an idea, the more people it reaches.

“One of the greatest things about Cincinnati’s heritage is its love of the arts,” Mirageas says. “These collaborations strengthen in people’s minds that Cincinnati bets above its average and boxes above its weight.”

Spanish Season Calendar

Opera Rap —Ainadamar: Fountain of Tears
Noon, April 14, Mercantile Library
7 p.m., April 14,Taft Museum of Art
Cincinnati Opera, $5
(513) 241-2742 or
Spanish Legends II
7:30 p.m., June 20
2 p.m., June 21
CCM Patricia Corbett Theater
$15 side/rear seats, $25 center seats, free for anyone under 18 with a paying adult
(513) 723-1182 or
Performed in Italian
Blood Wedding
8 p.m., April 30 and May 1
2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., May 2
University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
Cohen Family Studio Theater
Free but reservations required
(513) 556-4183 or
Performed in English
Fuente Ovejuna
Time TBA, June 20 and June 21
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Location TBA
(513) 381-BARD or
How Nanita Learned to Make Flan
Public performances:
3 p.m. and 7 p.m., May 9,
Madisonville Arts Center
10 a.m. and 1 p.m., May 16, Memorial Hall
$5 (on sale April 13); call (513) 241-2742
School availability May 4 through May 24
Cincinnati Opera Education
$400 booking fee for schools
(513) 768-5562 or
Performed in Spanish and English
Don Carlo
7:30 p.m., June 25 and June 27
Cincinnati Opera
Music Hall
Season subscription prices range from $96 to $604; single tickets go on sale May 18 and range from $26 to $152
(513) 241-2742 or
Performed in Italian with English supertitles
Opera Rap —The Novice’s Guide to Carmen
7 p.m., May 21
Cincinnati Opera
Location TBA, $5
(513) 241-2742 or


Opera Goes to Church
2 p.m., July 5
Cincinnati Opera
Christo Rey Church
(513) 241-2742 or
Spanish Legends I
2 p.m., June 7, CCM Corbett Auditorium
7:30 p.m., June 7, Anderson Center
CCO and Madcap Puppets
$15 side/rear balcony, $25 orchestra/center balcony, $50 box seat tickets, free for anyone under 18 with a paying adult
(513) 723-1182 or
Performed in Spanish
7:30 p.m., July 9 and July 11
Cincinnati Opera
Music Hall
Season subscription prices range from $96 to $604; single tickets go on sale May 18 and range from $26 to $152
(513) 241-2742 or
Performed in Spanish with English supertitles
The Marriage of Figaro
7:30 p.m., June 11 and June 13
Cincinnati Opera
Music Hall
Season subscription prices range from $96 to $604; single tickets go on sale May 18 and range from $26 to $152
(513) 241-2742 or
Performed in Italian with English supertitles
7:30 p.m., July 22, July 24 and July 26
Cincinnati Opera
Music Hall
Season subscription prices range from $96 to $604; single tickets go on sale May 18 and range from $26 to $152
(513) 241-2742 or
Performed in French with English supertitles
For a complete list of all the Spanish season events, visit