April is shaping up to be just as busy as March, making it extremely difficult to whittle down this little list to just ten concerts we most want to hear. So we may be cheating slightly on the number, but think of it as keeping your options open. As always, there will be many more concerts to keep you entertained as the complete calendar runs through the sidebar.
The banner event for the month will be the Washington debut of the singular Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci. While perhaps not well known here, she is a firebrand presence in Europe, as anyone who has watched her in performances captured on DVD. Vocal Arts D.C. will present her in a recital -- with pianist Donald Sulzen in a program entitled Echoes of the Belle Epoque (music by Fauré, Hahn, Tosti, Cilea, Mascagni, Respighi, and Refice) -- you will not want to miss (April 11, 7:30 pm), in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Tickets: $45.
The daring little opera company UrbanArias returns for its annual festival, in the black box theater at the Artisphere in Rosslyn. There are two productions of operas you will not hear anywhere else: the world premiere of a "self-help opera" by Conrad Cummings and Michael Korie called Positions 1956, and a double-bill of Before Breakfast (Thomas Pasatieri and Frank Corsaro) and The Filthy Habit (Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi). The productions are scheduled for various times from April 13 to 22. Tickets: $22.
For more recent opera, the Maryland Opera Studio, the collegiate company of the University of Maryland School of Music, will be giving tribute to the operas of American composer Dominick Argento this month. Performances will include stagings of Postcard from Morocco (April 20, 22, 26) and Miss Havisham's Fire (April 21, 26, 27, 29), plus a free performance of the song cycle The Andrée Expedition with baritone Robert Tudor and pianist Susan Slingland (April 22), all in the Clarice Smith Center. Tickets: $35.
Giovanni Paisiello is one of those composers whose fame in his own era is in stark contrast with the obscurity he suffers today. You have the rare opportunity to hear what is probably his most celebrated opera, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, the inspiration for Rossini's treatment of the same story. It will be performed by Opera Lafayette (April 14 and 15), in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, in a semi-staged production directed by Nick Olcott. Tickets: $65. Free tickets for kids (ages 7-17) are available for the April 15 performance.
Regular readers know that when Marc-André Hamelin plays, Ionarts listens. Following his recent recitals presented by Washington Performing Arts Society, the Canadian pianist will perform a recital next week under the auspices of Pro Musica Hebraica (April 2, 7:30 pm) in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. The repertory is some of Hamelin's best, virtuosic pieces by Charles-Valentin Alkan and Frédéric Chopin, in a program called The Enigma of Paris. Tickets: $38.
Speaking of virtuosity, one of the crazy things that the chamber sextet eighth blackbird does is play challenging dissonant music from memory. Next week, they will perform an unusual program centered on Schoenberg's hallucinatory Pierrot lunaire, but with some Berg, Weill, and George Perle thrown in for good measure. Soprano Lucy Shelton, dancer Elyssa Dole, and percussionist Matthew Duvall join the group for a performance choreographed by Mark DeChiazza, in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (April 3, 7:30 pm). Tickets: $32.
Three string quartets that specialize in playing contemporary music will be coming to town, so consider them a package deal. The Arditti String Quartet appears with pianist Stephen Drury (April 10, 7 pm) on the free concert series at the Library of Congress. The program, marking the John Cage centennial, includes music by Cage, Berg, Adès, and Bartók. At lunchtime the following day (April 11, 12:10 pm), the JACK Quartet gives a free concert, with music by Hosokawa and Ives, at the National Gallery of Art. Finally, the French Quatuor Diotima will give two concerts this month, first at La Maison Française, a concert to include the U.S. première of Philippe Manoury’s "Tensio" for string quartet and electronics (April 12, 7:30 pm), and again in a free concert at the Library of Congress (April 13, 8 pm), in a program of older music by Schubert, Beethoven, and Smetana.
To round out your string quartet week, a trip to Charm City will give you another chance to hear the Takács Quartet (April 15, 5:30 pm), playing music by Debussy, Janáček, and Beethoven at Baltimore's Shriver Hall.
Pioneering period instrument ensemble Concerto Köln is coming to town late in the month, in a free concert at the Library of Congress (April 20, 8 pm). Cellist Jan Freiheit joins them for music by Bach, Vivaldi, Sammartini, and others. Tickets: FREE.
Violist (and conductor) Yuri Bashmet and cellist Mischa Maisky join the Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra on their 20th anniversary tour this month, with a stop at the Music Center at Strathmore (April 27, 8 pm). The music includes chamber orchestra versions of pieces by Schubert, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms. Tickets: $35 to $95.
Alec Baldwin, star of the whimsical television series 30 Rock, is also an advocate for classical music. You can celebrate Arts Advocacy Day properly next month when Baldwin delivers what is sure to be a memorable Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (April 16, 6:30 pm). This the 25th annual installment of this lecture, hosted by the organization Americans for the Arts and named for the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Tickets: FREE.
For more concerts, see the complete calendar for the month of April.