“I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety.” – William Shakespeare

‘We have seen better days.’- William Shakespeare


Words and Images by Michael Kearns and Matt Steffen

To our dearest friends,

We write to you today with the news that, as a result of the coronavirus crisis, we are forced to cancel our 2020 Summer Festival.

This is particularly difficult to share with you now, on the eve of our 100th anniversary celebration. At this moment, however, the trajectory of the pandemic is unknown. Public orders currently prevent our artists, production crews, and staff from safely assembling to prepare for our season, a process that begins months in advance of opening night. We have followed guidance from public health experts while maintaining hope that we could move forward, but it is now clear we are not able to do so. With the uncertainty surrounding the resumption of public gatherings, it is our responsibility to act in favor of the continued well-being of our audiences, artists, staff, and community.

And with those words, the fine folks at The Cincinnati Opera recently cancelled their 100th season. It was to be a season of celebration and great plans had been on the books, and efforts underway, for a very long time.

This cancellation is particularly painful for us here at Open Roads as the Cincinnati Opera Company holds a special place in our collective hearts.

For the last six years we have written about, and photographed, the company’s productions. The Opera, while asking little in return, gave us, in essence, full run of the house during each dress rehearsal. Much of the writing and photos created ended here and in the pages of our sister publication Polly.

For a photographer, the Opera’s granting of this opportunity was no small kindness. This access meant that Matt and I had the opportunity to work with costumes, lighting and sets on a scale rarely available to us.

Last year, Matt Steffen and I gathered a sample of the thousands of shots we took over the last five years and hung a full gallery show at the beautiful Kennedy Heights Art Center. We called the show, Rhinoceroses Fly: Opera’s Improbable Beauty.



In naming the show, we wanted a title that reflected and paid homage to both Opera’s stunning beauty and amazing technical accomplishments.

As we wrote at the time, we wanted to, “reveal the complex and dramatic productions of The Cincinnati Opera – highlighting the multitudes of components, teams, and details that all have to coordinate for success…” We wanted to “give viewers an up-close and personal look at the color, magic, and passion inherent in each performance.”

We wanted you to appreciate, by looking at our thin frozen slices of those productions, the lighting director on an equal level with the lead performers.

Given that this special season has resulted in a bare stage, we are re-posting some of those photos- and other additional photos- in galleries below.

The photos are not arranged either by show or chronology. From the beginning our intent has been only to celebrate the aesthetics inherent in these shows. The truth be told, neither Matt nor I know much about opera.

We have no real insight or knowledge which can serve to enlarge anyone’s appreciation or knowledge of this art form. Except that we can, and have stopped time and beauty in its tracks so that you may investigate and examine, at your leisure, this most extraordinary beast.

During these dark days we offer you a few minutes of peace and beauty. Enjoy the colors and costumes, the sets and scenery. It’s scant comfort in comparison to the loss of the Opera’s 100th season, but then, as you know, we can only do what we can. Or, as the man would have it, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”