Mozart wrote his comic opera, COSÌ FAN TUTTE ('All Women Are Like That') in 1790, but don't be thinking a production of it will of necessity be stuffy or old-fashioned. Mozart's brilliant wit and compositional skills mean it's a dazzling work with an emotional score. Add to that a creative approach by a guest director like ISABEL MILENSKI, and the production of Così this weekend at UC's COLLEGE-CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC (CCM) will be relocating audiences to a quite unexpected place: Milenski has transported the tale of young love and infidelity into the early 1960s in America. An era of social conservatism proves to be a perfect setting for Così's exploration of testing the status quo — two young men are drawn into a bet that their fiancées can be persuaded to be unfaithful. 'In thinking about these themes,' Milenski says, 'I was drawn to the process which took place in the '60s that threatened the established cultural order.' Joining her is young guest conductor JOHANNES MOLLER-STOSCH, born in Germany and recently educated at CCM; as a student, he assisted the CSO's Paavo Järvi and the May Festival's James Conlon. He's now directing a new chamber orchestra he founded a year ago in Wittenberg, Germany. Performances Thursday-Sunday at CCM's Patricia Corbett Theatre. Tickets: 513-556-4183.
If you wait until Sunday and discover Così is sold out, how about a free alternative?
The Grammy-nominated CUARTETO LATINOAMERICANO will perform in Corbett Auditorium at 2 p.m. The string quartet, based at Pittsburgh's Carnegie-Mellon University, is three brothers, violinists Saúl and Arón and cellist Alvaro Bitrán, with violist Javier Montiel. They concentrate on Latin American composers: This program features works by Villa-Lobos, Revueltas, Castellanos-Yumar, Piazzolla (the tango guy) and Ponce.
If you're quick, you might skip downtown to the Contemporary Arts Center after the CCM program for another chamber concert, this one featuring the AMERNET STRING QUARTET, based at Northern Kentucky University. At 4 p.m. Sunday, they'll offer the second of their conTempo series of concerts of music by contemporary composers. All four works on Sunday are Cincinnati premieres. Tickets: 513-345-8400.
If you prefer Classical music in a larger venue, the CINCINNATI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA has two consecutive weekends with stellar performers. Friday and Saturday it's pianist Helen Huang, performing Mozart's dark, ominous and grand Piano Concerto No. 24; on Feb. 19-21 (including a relaxed Thursday evening performance with a free pre-concert buffet), you can hear MIDORI, the world-class violinist, perform Tchaikovsky's lovely, song-like Violin Concerto. Paavo Järvi conducts both concerts at Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300.
If the name MARGARET GARNER isn't familiar to you right now, you'll know her story before long. In fact, if you've read Toni Morrison's novel, Beloved (or seen the 1998 film based on it), you know the tale of a woman fleeing slavery and doing unthinkable things to protect her children. Well, it's based on a true 1873 story from Kentucky and Cincinnati. In 2005, the Cincinnati Opera will present a new opera based on Garner's story. (The Opera just announced that The P&G Fund has clipped enough coupons to provide a $600,000 grant to support the production.) Morrison will write the words, and megastar DENYCE GRAVES is scheduled to play the title character. If you'd like to learn more about it, you should plan to attend 'The Music, Story and Significance of Margaret Garner,' a Feb. 19 Opera Rap program at Memorial Hall (1225 Memorial Hall, Over-the-Rhine). This one will feature composer RICHARD DANIELPOUR and historian CARL B. WESTMORELAND, a senior advisor at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The 7 p.m. program has filled up, so the Opera has added another at 9 p.m. Admission is free, but you need to order a ticket in advance: 513-241-2472.
By the way, DeNyce Graves, a Cincinnati Opera favorite for several seasons, has cancelled her appearance this summer for the title role in Bizet's CARMEN: She's expecting her first child and has decided to take the summer off. Her replacement has not been named.