by Mark Gresham | 18 DEC 2018
This past summer, Evans Mirageas was posed with a tough carer decision. As full-time vice president of artistic planning for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Mirageas has been flying back-and-forth from Atlanta to Cincinnati to fulfill a part-time role as artistic director of the Cincinnati Opera. The topic of going full-time with Cincinnati Opera was first brought up in June by its general director and CEO, Patricia Beggs. Mirageas and Beggs decided to revisit the question at the end of the company’s season, which takes place in summer months when the ASO is in the break between their own seasons. Ultimately, Mirageas chose to go with being at the helm of Cincinnati Opera full-time.
After the news leaked back in October, I sat down with Mirageas for a conversation which resulted in a substantial Q&A published yesterday on ArtsATL. If you haven’t already, go read it first.
As is typical, there was a little more in our discussion which didn’t make it into that article, which was already on the long side. The following excerpts, which of necessity hit my cutting room floor as I paired down the Q&A for ArtsATL, are what could be called a pair of “bonus tracks” for readers of that article.
First, Mirageas on the current status of Cincinnati Opera, which played a large role in his decision to go for it:
What has happened to Cincinnati Opera is it has grown from a company that presented four grand operas in one theater to now a much more diversified and expanded menu of three grand operas in our main theater, a chamber opera or Baroque opera or new opera in a slightly smaller theater, and a whole new line of operas on contemporary subjects in non-conventional spaces. With great plans going ahead to the future, the company’s also about to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020. So I answered [Beggs’] question in the affirmative, that I thought there was a way we could do this.
With the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming 75th anniversary season in 2019-20, for which he had essentially finished his planning work before departing, Mirageas had a few additional things to say about that season and beyond, as a kind of philosophical reflection on the orchestra’s past and future:
What I’m excited about, as far as the 75th anniversary of the institution is concerned, is that the ASO at 75 has already begun to re-imagine itself as a leader in the community, a bellwether for this community’s cultural arts in a way that perhaps it hasn’t enjoyed since the headiest days of the early days of Mr. Shaw. Because when Robert Shaw came here in the late 1960s [to be the orchestra’s music director] it was at the height of the civil rights movement. He came here in part because this was the city of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Of course tragic events ensued and Shaw never really got to have the collaboration he dreamed up with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We honor his memory every year but for Atlanta and for Shaw at the time, it was a season of new beginnings. He created, of course, our first chamber chorus and then our Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, which just carried our name worldwide. He was at the ground level of the creation of our digital recording project, which of course made us worldwide stars on Telarc with both symphonic and choral literature.
The orchestra grew under Yoel Levi by leaps and bounds in technical prowess. It consolidated and went in new directions with repertoire with Robert [Spano] and Donald [Runnicles]. In other words, the evolution, as it were, from just 50 to 75, a 25-year span, which is the blinking of an eye for any institution of longevity, has been enormous. As we look at 75, I think it is a tremendously significant time for the institution because we are on the cusp of Robert handing over the reins to whoever will succeed him. [That person] will be only the fifth music director in an orchestra that is 75 years old. With all the new activities that we have already undertaken, with the broadening of our repertoire, with the fact that we are more and more a citizen of Atlanta, again I think 76 and beyond is going to be amazing for this institution.
EarRelevant will be keeping an ear and eye on Mirageas and his continued artistic adventures in Cincinnati and elsewhere. ■