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5.9.07

Fall 2007 Opera Preview

ON THE AIR:
If any of our Washington readers missed the Met telecasts from last season, we hope that you have been watching the rebroadcast of Great Performance: From the Met this week on the local PBS affiliate WMPT (Channel 22). The series concludes on September 6. Also, until the Met radio broadcasts begin on December 8, the once-again all-classical WETA-FM (90.9) is broadcasting opera in the Met's Saturday slot (1:30 pm). Beginning this Saturday, you can listen to the operas from last season at Washington National Opera: Macbeth (September 8), Sophie's Choice (September 15), Madama Butterfly (September 22), Duke Bluebeard's Castle and Gianni Schicchi (September 29), La fille du régiment (October 6), Jenůfa (October 13), and Die Walküre (October 20). Go here for links to all of our reviews from 2006-2007.

OF INTEREST:
Having already plugged American Opera Theater's revival of Ground at Georgetown University's Davis Performing Arts Center (September 7 to 9), we have a few other operatic oddities to suggest. The Peabody Chamber Opera will give the world premiere of Louis Cheslock's The Artist, a 1950s operatic setting of H. L. Mencken's 1912 play, at the Maryland Historical Society (September 15). Tenor Lawrence Brownlee and soprano Sarah Coburn will sing major roles in Washington Concert Opera's performance of Bellini's I Puritani, at Lisner Auditorium (September 23). Some more Bellini in concert, I Capuleti e i Montecchi this time and with only piano, from Opera Bel Cantanti, with very talented emerging singers Meghan McCall and Tara McCredie (November 30 to December 2).

In the category of unforgettable, let us place the upcoming performances of the Salzburg Marionnette Theater at Shriver Hall, with an eternal favorite, Mozart's Magic Flute (November 17) and a free children's performance of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel (November 18). If there is a young child in your life whom you want to hook on opera and you need to be convinced, read about my experience of taking Master Ionarts to see the marionnettes perform The Magic Flute the last time they were here. St. Petersburg's Kirov Opera will be singing for dollars again, but this year in December, with productions of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades (December 6, 11, 14) and Verdi's Otello (December 9, 12, 16) at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

The most interesting production from Baltimore Opera this fall will be Verdi's La Forza del Destino (October 6 to 14), directed by Paolo Micciché. This opera, whose premiere Verdi personally oversaw at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, is a lesser-known masterpiece, at least for its entrancing melodies. Baltimore Opera's choice of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda for its second opera (November 10 to 18) is far from conventional either, and the casting of Fabiana Bravo and Gregory Kunde makes a second trip to Baltimore for Ionarts very likely. Make that a third, with the Peabody Opera Theater's production of one of the greatest operas of the 20th century, Benjamin Britten's menacing The Turn of the Screw (November 15 to 18).

William BolcomThe high point of the fall season at Washington National Opera is the local premiere of a recent opera, William Bolcom's A View from the Bridge (November 3 to 17). It is a sad likelihood that ticket sales will not be as strong as for the other productions this fall, but we commend America's national opera company for staging a modern, American opera. Speaking of new operas, the University of Maryland Opera Studio will be giving the world premiere of John Musto's new opera Later the Same Evening, a work inspired by paintings of Edward Hopper (November 15 to 18), at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

BAROQUE OPERA
Opera did not begin with Mozart, and here is what you can look forward to from the first 150 years of operatic history. Opera Lafayette will give a concert performance of Rebel and Francoeur's Zélindor, roi des Sylphes and other French works from 1745, at Strathmore (October 4). Lead roles will be sung by tenor Jean-Paul Fouchécourt and Heidi Grant Murphy. Later in the month, the adventurous Baltimore company Opera Vivente will update Handel's Alcina to the groovy, drug-addled 1960s (October 26 to November 3).

Also in Baltimore, the inventive crew of the Peabody Chamber Opera will be staging an absolute masterpiece, Henry Purcell's semi-opera Dido and Aeneas, at Grace and Saint Peter’s Church in Baltimore, but only for a single performance (November 3). Speaking of inventive, American Opera Theater is producing a modern staging -- yes, staging -- of Handel's Messiah. You tend to hear the idea behind AOT's newest production and think, "What the hell?" However, having ended up enjoying most of those crazy ideas up to this point, I'm game (Georgetown University's Davis Arts Center, December 7 to 9). Finally, it's not exactly opera, but we would not miss the Folger Consort's production of the Second Shepherds' Play (December 12 to 30), a Christmas concert event that will not make you cringe.

OPERA RECITALS
Opera singers will be making other types of appearances in our area this fall, too. You can hear the Beautiful Voice of America's Soprano, Renée Fleming, at the National Symphony's Season Opening Ball Concert at the Kennedy Center (September 16). She will sing pieces by Mozart and Korngold, including the most famous aria from the latter's Das Wunder der Heliane. (La Fleming will also grace the stage of Baltimore Opera for a benefit concert on December 8.) Baritone Nathan Gunn will give a recital of Schubert and American songs, with his wife, Julie Gunn, at the piano, at Lorin Maazel's idyllic Châteauville Foundation down in Castleton Farms, Va. (September 23). Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke will give a recital in the Young Concert Artists Series at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (September 30).

Vocal Arts Society is presenting two opera singers in keenly anticipated Lieder recitals: baritone Christian Gerhaher (October 11, Embassy of Austria) and soprano Anne Schwanewilms (October 30, Kennedy Center Terrace Theater). Local favorite François Loup will perform Schubert's chilling song cycle Die Winterreise at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (October 19 and 21). Let us not forget Dmitri Hvorostovsky, brought again by WPAS to Strathmore (November 20). This recital seems to be even less about opera than his last one, but it will be quite a show.

The living legend Marilyn Horne will also be at Clarice Smith next month, to give a discussion (October 10) and master class (October 12). If anyone still cares, Kathleen Battle will also be giving a recital in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (December 7).

WORTH MENTION:
Also from the Washington National Opera this fall, there will be a "young and beautiful" La Bohème (September 15 to 30). If you end up not being able to get a seat in the theater, this is the opera selected for the live simulcast (September 23, 2 pm), which can be viewed on the large outdoor screen on the National Mall or in Silver Spring's AFI Silver Theatre and Alexandria's Old Town Theater. There are a number of voices you will want to hear in the new production of Don Giovanni (October 25 to November 16), including Ildar Abdrazakov (Leporello in the first cast and Don Giovanni in the second) and Erin Wall (Donna Anna). An opera that is well worth the effort for a good cast, Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, is up first for Virgina Opera (September 28 to October 21, including October 12 and 14 at George Mason University Center for the Arts). French soprano Manon Strauss Evrard will sing all three, very demanding lead female roles. Lastly, although it is hard to know what to make of this one, the Khmer Arts Ensemble will present Sophiline Cheam Shapiro's adaptation of Mozart's classic, Pamina Devi: A Cambodian Magic Flute, at Clarice Smith (October 25 and 26).

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