Critic’s Choice for 2016-17 season
New leadership has taken over at some of Washington’s major concert presenters over the last couple years. Institutions once almost exclusively devoted to classical music now include more events devoted to jazz, world music, musicals, and other genres. Variety in listening opportunities is all well and good, but if your priorities lie more with classical music and opera, the range of choices has contracted a bit.
Yet classical aficionados will have plenty of excellent music to hear in the coming year, with some of the smaller presenters becoming increasingly important. Looking ahead at the season to come, here are ten events that we surely do not want to miss.
Washington Concert Opera, 30th Anniversary Concert, September 18, 2016
To mark a major milestone this year, a special gala concert at Lisner Auditorium will feature soprano Angela Meade, mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, and tenor Michele Angelini in highlights from bel canto operas. Music director Antony Walker will also conduct two operas this season, Massenet’s Hérodiade (November 20) and Beethoven’s Leonore, the original version of Fidelio (March 5).
Folger Consort and Derek Jacobi, October 1, 2016
The Folger Consort, the early music ensemble based at the Folger Shakespeare Library, opens its season with a special evening of theater and music at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Derek Jacobi, Richard Clifford, and other actors will perform scenes from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Inspired by Charles Gildon’s 1699 adaptation of the play, which included a masque with music from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, guest musicians and singers Peter Becker, Emily Noël, and Molly Quinn will join the Consort to provide the same Purcellmusic.
Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber, December 6, 2016
The entire season line-up from Vocal Arts D.C. is top-notch, with several singers who easily could be on this list, including Sandrine Piau, Anne Schwanewilms, and Piotr Beczala. The recital by Christian Gerhaher and pianist Gerold Huber is the easy choice. The Austrian baritone has not been to Washington since 2007, and his program will include lots of music by Mahler. Because of the renovation going on all season at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, Vocal Arts D.C. is hosting its recitals at the newly renovated Theater of the Arts at the Van Ness campus of the University of the District of Columbia.
Isabelle Faust, violinist, January 22, 2017
One of the local music series that has not reduced its number of concerts is the Phillips Collection. Indeed, its lineup continues to get better each season and 2016-17 will include many good concerts, including pianists Lukáš Vondráček and Lise de La Salle, cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, and the Jupiter Quartet. The standout is the solo recital by violinist Isabelle Faust (January 22), playing solo works by J.S. Bach.
National Symphony Orchestra, with Gidon Kremer, January 26-28, 2017
This is the National Symphony Orchestra’s last season under music director Christoph Eschenbach, but there are many promising concerts this season with guest conductors, including appearances from Edward Gardner, Juraj Valcuha, James Conlon, Donald Runnicles, and Gianandrea Noseda, who will succeed Eschenbach in the 2017-2018 season. The top highlight is the program with violinist Gidon Kremer, who will play Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s G major violin concerto, with Eschenbach also conducting Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI, February 4, 2017
The Library of Congress is hosting fewer concerts on its free series this year, but there are many not to miss, including tenor Mark Padmore, fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout, the Tallis Scholars, harpsichordist Richard Egarr, the Pacifica Quartet with Jörg Widmann, the Hagen Quartet, and cellist Steven Isserlis. Put a pin on your calendar especially for the massive program called “Gateway to the East: 1770-1797” with Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI (February 4), which should be one of the best concerts of the year.
Jake Heggie, Dead Man Walking, February 25 to March 11, 2017
After the triumph of its Ring Cycle this past spring, Washington National Opera is offering one of its blander seasons in recent memory. The major exception is a production of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, one of the more powerful operas of the past twenty years, last seen in Baltimore a decade ago. Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, who created the role of Sister Helen Prejean, will try her hand at the role of Mrs. De Rocher, the mother of the condemned man, while delightful mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey will sing the role of Sister Helen. WNO also continues its laudable American Opera Initiative project, presenting three new 20-minute operas and a new hour-long work, Mohammed Fairouz’s The Dictator’s Wife, all in January.
Shift: A Festival of American Orchestras, March 28 to April 1, 2017
The Spring for Music Festival, which brought orchestras from around the country to Carnegie Hall from 2010 to 2014, is coming to Washington. The Kennedy Center will host its first installment, now called Shift: A Festival of American Orchestras, next spring in a co-presentation with Washington Performing Arts. Concerts in this year’s festival will feature the Boulder Philharmonic, North Carolina Symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and The Knights, and the programming will include new music by Stephen Lias, Caroline Shaw, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Mason Bates, and Christopher Theofanidis, among others. Even better, tickets are priced at the affordable rate of $25.
Hamburg Ballet, March 28 to April 2, 2017
The Washington Ballet celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, the first season under new artistic director Julie Kent, formerly of American Ballet Theater. Unfortunately, the company will not be dancing to live music, at least not yet. If you prefer an actual orchestra instead of a recorded track for your ballet, the Kennedy Center Opera House has an excellent roster of visiting companies in the season to come, including the San Francisco Ballet, the Cincinnati Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and New York City Ballet, as well as the resident Suzanne Farrell Ballet. Top choice, however, is the visit of the Hamburg Ballet, which has not come to Washington in over a decade. The company will perform the local premiere of John Neumeier’s adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fable The Little Mermaid, in a choreography that is reportedly too dark for children, with a new score by talented composer Lera Auerbach.
Joyce DiDonato and the English Concert, May 2, 2017
The Kennedy Center is presenting a performance of Handel’s opera Ariodante, with Harry Bicket conducting the English Concert, co-presented with Washington Performing Arts and Vocal Arts D.C. Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, in the title role, leads a cast starring soprano Christiane Karg as Ginevra, tenor David Portillo as Lucanio, and soprano Joelle Harvey as Dalinda. The group, last in Washington in 2010, will be on a tour that will have only three other stops in North America.