Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative, now in its 5th year, keeps the opera flame alight at the Kennedy Center during the long winter stretch between mainstage WNO productions. With four short works on offer over the course of two nights, it is also a welcome chance to peruse how a variety of young composers are addressing the challenges of contemporary opera.Read the whole thing here...
Thursday, January 26, 2017
I reviewed WNO's American Opera Initiative for Parterre:
|Mt. Pleasant. Camera: Pentax Spotmatic. Film: Portra400.|
The opener is Francesca Zambello's "graffiti Aida" production that premiered in San Francisco this year. I'll have to go back and read the reactions to the production, but the takeaway here is some especially deep personnel across both A and B casts. Aida is shared by Tamara Wilson and Amber Wagner, Amneris is shared by Ekaterina Semenchuk and Marina Prudenskaya (these are new to me), and Radames is shared between Yonghoon Lee and Carl Tanner. Gordon Hawkins shows up as Amonsaro.
Next up is Handel's Alcina, a rare baroque foray for WNO. Casting is intriguing again, with Angela Meade returning after her celebrated turn in Norma a few years back, plus Ying Fang, Elizabeth DeShong, and Daniela Mack. The location will be the more intimate confines of the Eisenhower theater, a wise choice for Handel. This is a new production by theater director Anne Bogart, who also did that Norma for WNO, which was nondescript but pleasant enough.
The big project for the year is a new production of Don Carlo (with Philadelphia and Minnesota) conducted by Phillipe Auguin and featuring a very badass cast of mostly young singers including Leah Crocetto, Jamie Barton, Russell Thomas, and Eric Owens. The one-off cover (?) performance is no slouch either with Latonia Moore, Domingo Cafritz young artist MVP Daryl Freedman, and Rafael Davila for one night only. Sorry Carloheads, no word on cuts/language in the press release...
And then, to fill whatever budget hole that new Don Carlo dug, we get a Barber of Seville production. So, I don't like Barber that much. If I had the power to take one uber-chestnut that is produced constantly and bump it down to, say, Idomeneo frequency, I'm definitely going to say Barber. Directors aren't very good at making 19th century farce actually funny not just "fake laughing at opera" funny. Audiences enjoy the music in a Tom Petty's greatest hits way, not a meaningful way.
But that's just me. There are some bright spots in the staffing: sounds like there might be an interesting American debut (Andrey Zhilkovsky), Isabel Leonard sings Rosina, bass Wei Wu (who has made a strong impression in the young artist program) sings Dr. Bartolo, and we get Maestro Maurizio Benini making his WNO debut.
The season closing musical is back again, this time Candide, a tie-in with the KC-wide Bernstein centenary jamboree. Yes, it hurts a bit to give up one of only 5 slots to a musical production which is always a bit of a dicey artistic proposition. I'm also always skeptical at whether these musicals really pack the house more than a regular offering would. But of anything in the musical realm Candide of course feels most at home in the opera house, and I actually have never seen the whole thing, so I guess that's okay.
Season extras are a family holiday-time production of The Little Prince, revived from a few years back, and the annual American Opera Initiative festival, notably headlined by "Breaking the Waves" team Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek.