CINCINNATI -- World premiere performances and mash-ups of music, dance and visual arts are expected at the Constella Festival, and the 2017 line-up delivers.
"We present things that are high quality and that are really enticing to someone who might never have experienced classical music before," said Tatiana Berman, Constella founder and artistic director. "It's eclectic and diverse."
Constella, which returns March 18 through March 25 at a variety of venues across Cincinnati, also includes this year pieces focused on social justice, humanity in the modern age and politics. A world premiere performance from the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and MamLuft&Co. is inspired by John Coltrane's "Spiritual," a work that deals with African folklore. "From Russia With Love" is a music and film mash-up that explores the history of tension between the U.S. and Russia, while "Piano 2.0" considers the line between man and machine.
March 19: "Piano 2.0" is one of the first performances of the sixth Constella Festival. On March 19 at New Riff Distillery, pianist Dan Tepfer will play a Yamaha Disklavier CFX piano -- and, as he plays, it will respond in real time with notes of its own. Tepfer has programmed the piano with a variety of responses to different pieces, leading to a different sound for each performance.
"That's certainly something you won't see in many, many hundreds of miles," Berman said. "That's one of our most innovative performances."
March 23: Berman, a violinist, collaborates with filmmaker David Donnelly for "From Russia With Love," a presentation at Gallery 708 that pairs film vignettes with musical interludes. It considers propaganda, free thought and the nature of politics.
But, Berman said, the audience should not expect to be told what to think about the current state of American politics and ties to Russia.
"It alludes to how it relates to today's world. We're not taking sides. We're exploring the issues that happen over and over and how history sort of repeats itself," said Berman, who is from Russia. "Some artists speak out … I prefer to lead people into the conversation and start a discussion, to lead people into experiences and let them discover their inner selves, the things that are beyond politics.
"Art is timeless, in the end," Berman added. "That's what we focus on."
March 24: The timelessness of art, the way it morphs through the decades and through mediums, will be on display again March 24 at "Luminous Dance," a world premiere performance from Cincinnati's MamLuft&Co. and Dayton Contemporary Dance Co. At the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the dancers will present a piece inspired by the work of John Coltrane, who was himself inspired by African folklore. The work takes the audience through a journey of loss and joy, migration, love and power.
That night also is the opening of the Freedom Center's latest exhibit, "Mandela: Journey to Ubuntu," which is another world premiere for Cincinnati. Created by the Freedom Center with the blessing of the Nelson Mandela Family Foundation, the exhibit includes never-before-displayed pictures of the South African president and tracks his and his country's journey from apartheid to social justice.
March 25: The festival also includes a free program on March 25 for children and families at the Contemporary Arts Center.
Each of the Constella performances is ticketed separately.