September Classical Music Preview
See Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena,” Gil Shaham playing Samuel Barber, and Anne-Sophie Mutter this month.
The fall season gets underway with two great operas, some vocal stars in concert, and a lot—quite a lot—of American music.
Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, who has made a name for herself at such venues as the Met and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, appears at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on September 14 in a recital sponsored by Vocal Arts DC. Accompanied by pianist Warren Jones, Blythe sings the late James Legg’s settings of poems by Emily Dickinson, as well as works by Samuel Barber, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and other American composers.
Anna Bolena, one of Gaetano Donizetti’s Tudor operas and a classic of the bel canto repertoire, opens the season at the Washington National Opera on September 15, continuing through October 6. Antonello Allemandi conducts, and Stephen Lawless directs this Dallas Opera production. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky stars as Anna Bolena, condemned to die by her husband, Enrico (Henry) VIII, sung by bass Oren Gradus.
Is there a more enduring work in the world of opera—one that blends comedy and tragedy so effortlessly—than Mozart’s Don Giovanni? This Washington National Opera revival, opening September 20 and running through October 9, features bass Ildar Abdrazakov as the salacious rake, as well as soprano Meagan Miller, soprano Barbara Frittoli, tenor Juan Francisco Gatell, bass-baritone Andrew Foster-Williams, and soprano Veronica Cangemi. Phillippe Auguin conducts, and John Pascoe directs.
Nearly 20 years ago, I saw Gil Shaham perform Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, and aside from the maturity of the playing, I cannot forget the sweet, radiant tone he produced in the work’s first two movements and the fiery and frenetic virtuosity he displayed in the finale. Shaham plays the Barber on September 22 at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening performance at the Music Center at Strathmore. Marin Alsop conducts two other American works: Leonard Bernstein’s suite from On the Waterfront and the Symphony No. 3 by Aaron Copland.
Another all-American program can be heard on September 22 at George Mason’s Center for the Arts, where Christopher Zimmerman leads the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra in music by John Adams (the Chairman Dances), Ellen Zwilich (the Shadows for piano and orchestra, featuring soloist Jeffrey Biegel), Bernstein (three dance episodes from On the Town), and George Gershwin (the Piano Concerto in F, also starring Biegel).
On September 23, baritone Nathan Gunn appears, along with tenor William Burden and soprano Emily Albrink, in a Washington National Opera Celebrity Concert. The program will include music by Mozart, Gioacchino Rossini, Stephen Sondheim, and others.
Bernstein’s Third Symphony, titled Kaddish—named for the Jewish prayer for the dead but ostensibly a prayer for peace—is the main draw of the Baltimore Symphony’s September 29 performance at the Music Center at Strathmore. Guest soloists include narrator Claire Bloom, soprano Kelley Nassief, and the Washington Chorus. Marin Alsop also conducts John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Ansel Adams: America by Dave and Chris Brubeck.
The National Symphony Orchestra performs its Season Opening Ball Concert on September 30 with Christoph Eschenbach conducting several crowd pleasers suitable for the occasion. On the program: Beethoven’s Overture to Creatures of Prometheus and Richard Strauss’s Suite from Der Rosenkavalier. Superstar Anne-Sophie Mutter appears in two iconic works: Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Pablo de Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy.