Cincinnati USA’s wealth of cultural institutions and organizations are central to its identity. When the city was no more than a frontier outpost, music was considered a civilizing influence to make the wilderness more like home. As the city grew, so did the diversity of its cultural offerings. Today, Cincinnati is home to a major symphony orchestra, opera and ballet companies, a Tony Award-winning regional theater and variety of museums. Several of these organizations are ranked among the nation’s best and are based in Music Hall, an historic building considered the musical heart of the city.
Music Hall, completed in 1878 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975, is located in the Over-the-Rhine district, downtown. The large Romanesque Revival-style brick structure was originally built for the May Festival, one of nation’s oldest annual choral festivals. Today, the hall’s major tenants include the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras and Cincinnati Opera. All perform in the hall’s large concert venue, Springer Auditorium, which seats around 3,500 and is considered one of the most acoustically perfect concert halls in the country.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1895, is the nation’s fifth oldest symphony orchestra and has long been ranked among the country’s top 10 orchestras. Each year, the world’s great artists join the CSO onstage at Music Hall for a nine-month season of unforgettable concerts. Many of the 20th and 21st century’s greatest conductors have lead the CSO at home and on tours around the world, including Leopold Stokowski, Fritz Reiner, Max Rudolf, Thomas Schippers, Paavo Järvi and beginning with the 2013–14 season, French conductor Louis Langrée.
The Cincinnati Pops, founded in 1977 by the late Erich Kunzel, is equally celebrated at home and around the world. Always a hit with local audiences, Kunzel and the Pops established a worldwide following through their tours, PBS specials and recordings. Today, current conductor John Morris Russell is carrying on that tradition.
The Cincinnati Ballet was founded in 1963 when 41dancers were chosen from 200 applicants who auditioned for what would become one of the nation’s premier ballet companies. Today, the company’s dancers are from around the world and perform a full season of classical and contemporary works. For the past 38 years, the company has given the region one of its most beloved holiday traditions, lavish productions of The Nutcracker sponsored by Frisch’s restaurants.
Cincinnati Opera is the country’s second oldest opera company at age 92. Traveling opera companies regularly played one of four opera houses here during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Outdoor performances were common as well, which set the stage for the formation of Cincinnati Opera at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in 1920, its home for 52 years before moving to Music Hall. For nearly a century, the company has presented the world’s greatest operas and singers, which draw audiences each summer from all over the Midwest.
Written by: Kathleen Doane