Octavian and Cleopatra Robby May; Sharon Lesley
The English opera”Octavian and Cleopatra” book and lyrics by Sharon Lesley Ohrenstein, music by David Ohrenstein 
Robby May as Octavian and  Sharon Lesley as Cleopatra – set against the backdrop of the Great Pyramid



          LOVE CONQUERS ALL IN OUR OPERA: OCTAVIAN AND CLEOPATRA where musical styles take turns.  The Roman point of view, through militaristic music, alternates with exotic and beautiful Egyptian melodies sung by Cleopatra and her ladies in waiting. Whereas the Roman style is more “foursquare”; the music of Cleopatra is languid, sexy and touches the heart.  As an unwilling Octavian becomes totally taken with Cleopatra, his angular Roman style changes to the Egyptian. At the end, he sings the beautiful aria, She was Egypt’s Queen as he recalls  her alluring charm and  female virtues.  In a subplot, a Roman captain is sent by Octavian to guard Cleopatra.  The captain also falls in love with her and plots his own escape with her. . The Captain’s hardened ways of war disappear in the presence Cleopatra as he sings the melodious aria of love which closes act one, In the Darkness.  The opera burned the midnight oil for two years and became a labor of love between the husband-wife team of lyricist-book writer Sharon and composer David.  Sharon has currently been orchestrating the work.  Look  on our website entitled   under the heading of “Stage”. Then click on the Octavian and Cleopatra drop down for more information.

How I Encouraged Dave’s Marriage

Newlyweds Darlene and Dave
Newlyweds Darlene and Dave

How I Encouraged Dave’s Marriage: The ways of love are unknowable.  Dave went on a concert tour, and on a cold, snowy night in February; he was playing at a Lion’s Club in Hilliard, Ohio- a suburb of Colombus. At the insistence of Mark Azar, then a 10 year old boy, he and his mother came to hear the  Rubinoff and His Violin at that  concert. Earlier Mark had heard the maestro play for his school, as Dave gave free concerts for the children in the vicinity of his engagements.

Darlene fell in love immediately on hearing this grand violinist.  Then, after the concert, she wrote the following note on the back of her business card for little Mark to give the Maestro: “Dear Mr. Rubinoff: Tonight, at age 44, I know what love at first sight means. If I were free to do as I please, I would follow you everywhere.  Mother of eight- Darlene”.

Dave came back to Detroit to work with me and said; “I’m 73 and have just met a wonderful woman who is 44. Do you think I should marry her?” Without any hesitation I said “Why not?  Mr. Rubinoff then said, “She has 8 young children”.  I felt that Dave was in love with her, so I said: “It will be wonderful. Do it!”

And so, it was wonderful.  I feel that the Azar family, by their love and kindness, extended Mr. Rubinoff’s life by more than a dozen years. They also welcomed me into their household to work with the Maestro and treated me as one of their family.  I am forever grateful to the Azars.   (Stay tuned for more Rubinoff blogs)

commemorative concert to be given in Circleville, Ohio

Unearthing a Lost Concert of “Rubinoff and His Violin” After 30 Years


Unearthing a Lost Concert of “Rubinoff and His Violin”

Unearthing a Lost Concert of “Rubinoff and His Violin”After 30 Years. The year 1984 is not so far past; but the man playing the Stradivarius violin, David Rubinoff, was born in 1897. How I came to be his arranger and accompanist is quite a story.

In begins in 1911  when Victor Herbert, famed conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony and writer of operettas, was on a Sabbatical and touring Europe. It was at the Warsaw Conservatory of Music that Herbert heard a young Rubinoff playing his composition: Dance of the Russian Peasant. Without hesitation Herbert said: “Son, you belong to America.” And so, Victor Herbert brought him and his entire family back to the United States. Rubinoff  lived with Herbert who then placed him in the center of American cultural life. He was introduced to such notables as John Phillip Sousa,  the great tenor, Caruso, and others at the Sunday brunches held in his home.  I have had the honor of working with the Maestro Rubinoff since 1970.


To transition to this concert given at Scott’s Hotel in Deposit, New York; my wife, Sharon Lesley, and I have had quite a history concert touring together. We have been at Scotts during the summer months since 1983. I asked Ray Scott if I could invite Rubinoff and his wife to the hotel, and he jumped at the chance. Some 30 years later the Scotts have just now found the recording of our concert. Now you can hear, through youtube, why Victor Herbert insisted that Rubinoff belonged to America. At an actual performance at age 86 he will play the Dance of the Russian Peasant  and also with me, a beautiful approximately 45 minute concert of some of our arrangements. If you feel about the music as I do, you will believe you are witnessing a miracle.Continue reading

Film featurette called 50 words by Kathryn Parks

Kathryn’s Cabaret


Kathryn’s Cabaret: Although in France “cabaret” at one time was referred to as any business that sold liquor; as a theatrical venue, the culture began in 1881 with the opening of Le Chat Noir, the “Black Cat”, in the Monmartre district of Paris. Among its patrons were Debussy, Satie and Maupassant. Performers got to test new material and audiences could enjoy the goings on for the price of a few drinks in win-win-win situation.


In keeping with this exciting tradition, stage star Kathryn Parks, who has been cast in leading rolls across the Sarasota-Manatee-Venice area,  with guest relatives- mother Sharon Lesley and father David Ohrenstein – some 135 years later will bring back the original spirit and intent of Le Chat Noir to the cabaret stage at the Venice Theatre. Kathryn’s Cabaret -As part of the 2015 Summer Cabaret Festival, we’ll be appearing Saturday, July 11 and Thursday, July 16 at 8pm.


After keeping a diary for over 20 years, Kathryn will be sharing excerpts and singing songs. She’ll reveal stories of growing up in a very entertaining household while singing the classic songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Gershwin, Sondheim, and more.

Tickets are only $15 and can be purchased here:  //  The Venice Theatre is located at 140 W. Tampa Ave., Venice, Fl. 34285. The box office is 941-488-1115.


Here is a video with clips of Kathryn’s performances. We hope to see you there!

Elizabeth of Russia


Elizabeth of Russia, it all goes back to a book that seemingly popped off a shelf decades ago as wife- Sharon walked through Brant’s Used Book Store in Sarasota, Florida.  She felt a special destiny in that moment. The book was about Elizabeth of Russia, the daughter of Peter the Great. However, although she wrote her book after some initial research, the idea sat dormant in her mind.  Some twenty plus years later, Sharon then met with her husband David, a composer, began collaborating on the project, and Elizabeth of Russia was born.Continue reading

Brookdale colonial park performance

Live performance featuring David Ohrenstein at Brookdale Colonial Park April 23, 2015

David Ohrenstein will play the Steinway grand that belonged the world renowned duo piano team, Ferrante and Teicher. His performance will be for the open house ribbon cutting ceremony for Brookdale Colonial Park, a senior living facility- given on Thursday April 23 from 5-7 pm at 4730 Bee Ridge Road. For more information and to RSVP call 941.378-4414.

David will have just completed his sixth winter season playing the two Steinway grand pianos at the Gasparilla Inn at Boca Grande where he regularly plays for American presidents and heads of state from around the world. He is a great fan of vintage Steinway pianos.

In honor of the autographed piano by Ferrante and Teicher that Brookdale has, he will feature the special arrangements for one piano done by these giants of music including such classics as:

  • EbbTide
  • The Shadow of Your Smile
  • Last Tango in Paris
  • Put Your Hand in the Hand
  • and even Bad, Bad Leroy Brown

He will demonstrate the incredible tone capabilities of their Steinway piano with numerous selections by Chopin, Beethoven, J.S. Bach and Brahms and that great early jazz classicist, Scott Joplin including Bach.s Italian Concerto (all three movements, the theme from the movie The king’s Speech from Beethoven’s 7th symphony, Chopin’s Ab Etude used in the movie The Turning Point
and of course many selections from the Sting especially Joplin’s beautiful Argentine tango- Solace.

David will also play some of his own compositions which he recently played for at a command performance in New York on beautiful Oquaga Lake this last September where he has been residing in the summers.

Featured will be Moonlight on the Lake along with other great classics about the Moon including Debussy’s Claire de Lune and little known but equally beautiful composition of Claire de Lune composed by Debussy’s composition teacher, Gabriel Faure.  I personally like Faure’s better although it is not as well known.

In the popular vein he will play Moonglow and Blue Moon and Moon River along with numerous other compositions by Henry Mancini including:

  • the Pink Panther
  • the Baby Elephant Walk
  • Charade
  • Arabesque
  • A Powdered Wig
  • It Had Better Be Tonight
  • and Inspector Clouseau’s theme

Of course there will be plenty of Cole Porter and George Gershwin to go around with the marvelous atmosphere and piano Brookdale Colonial Park. David is also a great fan of Michelle Legrande and will play such classics as Windmills of Your Mind, What Are You doing the Rest of your Life, and Little Boy Blue. There will be plenty of music fun to go around.

See you there- David