2018-19 Critic’s Choice

Mon Aug 20, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Kate Lindsey stars in Gounod’s “Sapho” November 18 at Washington Concert Opera. Photo: Rosetta Greek

The District of Columbia and its environs offer a dizzying array of classical music in the 2018-19 season. Resident ensembles compete with a rich schedule of international visitors who regularly include Washington on their touring schedules.

Some listeners might gravitate to only one type of performance: the balletomanes will focus on dance, the keyboard fans on piano recitals, the opera nuts on the vocal offerings. The well-rounded concert-goers, however, spread their budget across the spectrum, forced to make hard choices. Here are your critic’s top choices for the season to come.


Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Folger Theater and Folger Consort. September 4-23.

One rarely gets to hear a play accompanied entirely by incidental music any more, although it was once a major art form. Robert Richmond directs the Bard’s infamous Scottish play–not the original but William Davenant’s adaptation from the Restoration Period–at the Folger Shakespeare Library’s intimate theater this fall. Ian Merrill Peakes and Kate Eastwood Norris star on the platform, and the Folger Consort, the institution’s historically informed ensemble, performs period-appropriate music by John Eccles and other 18th-century composers. folger.edu

Kurt Weill’s Street Scene. Virginia Opera. October 6 and 7.

After German composer Kurt Weill fled the Nazi regime in the 1930s and emigrated to the United States, he attempted to create a new genre of American opera that drew on European models and the American musical. The most successful of these works is Street Scene, which will see a rare revival this season by Virginia Opera. Premiered in 1946, the opera adapted a play by Elmer Rice with vivid lyrics by Langston Hughes, creating a tantalizing hybrid of Puccini and Tin Pan Alley. Artistic director Adam Turner conducts a cast led by the sparkling soprano Maureen McKay. vaopera.org

Gounod’s Sapho. Washington Concert Opera. November 18.

Charles Gounod’s Sapho retells the (mostly imagined) story of the renowned poet of Lesbos, including her win in the poetry competition of the Olympic Games and her lovelorn suicide leap from the Leucadian cliffs into the ocean. Talented mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey anchors this rare Sapho performance by Washington Concert Opera at George Washington University. Tenor Addison Marlor, soprano Amina Edris, bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana, and baritone Brian Vu round out the cast. concertopera.org

Britten’s War Requiem. National Symphony Orchestra led by Gianandrea Noseda, with Karina Flores, Ian Bostridge, and Matthias Goerne. November 29 and December 1.

Several of the city’s organizations will honor the centenary of the end of World War I this November. Likely to be most powerful is this performance of Benjamin Britten’s epic, tragic War Requiem, with its poignant poetry by Wilfred Owen, a British soldier killed just days before the Armistice. This event should be the crown jewel of Gianandrea Noseda’s second season as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra. kennedy-center.org

PostClassical Ensemble led by Angel Gil-Ordóñez, with Benjamin Pasternack, Wen-Chi Su, and Netanel Draiblate. January 23, 2019.

At the heart of another intriguing season, PostClassical Ensemble presents a major exploration of the Indonesian gamelan’s impact on European and American composers. This concert extravaganza at Washington National Cathedral, where the group has been ensemble-in-residence since last season, includes music by Debussy, Colin McPhee, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen, Bill Alves, and Lou Harrison. The Balinese and Javanese gamelan ensembles from the Indonesian Embassy will fill the cathedral’s grand nave, accompanied by dancers. postclassical.com

Gianandrea Noseda conducts the National Symphony Orchestra in Britten’s “War Requiem” November 29 and December 1. Photo: Tracey Salazar

Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Washington National Opera. March 9-29.

The Russian composer’s masterpiece, based on a novel in verse by Pushkin, returns to Washington National Opera after an absence of more than thirty years. Robert Carsen’s quasi-abstract production comes to the Kennedy Center Opera House by way of Canadian Opera Company. Anna Nechaeva and Igor Golovatenko star as the couple that discovers love too late, with Alexey Dolgov as Lensky, Lindsay Ammann as Olga, and Eric Halfvarson as Gremin. Rising American conductor Robert Trevino makes his company debut in this first WNO season after the departure of music director Philippe Auguin. kennedy-center.org

The Thirteen and REBEL Baroque Orchestra. March 30 and 31.

This local chamber choir made quite an impression in Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine last fall with Choral Arts Society of Washington. As part of an outstanding season planned for a handful of venues, this concert in collaboration with the equally fine REBEL Baroque Orchestra, promises to be a highlight. Bach’s lively motet Lobet den Herrn is paired with a gem among Baroque sacred works, Handel’s Dixit Dominus, and the even less-known Stabat Mater by Agostino Steffani. thethirteenchoir.org

Piotr Anderszewski. Shriver Hall, Baltimore. April 7.

Standing out from a worthy season at Shriver Hall is this recital by the Polish pianist with a knack for turning in quirky readings of small-scale pieces. His Bach is among the most immaculate among players on the modern piano: a selection of Preludes and Fugues from the second book of The Well-Tempered Clavier should be full of polished facets to admire. Bach is paired with Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, what amounts to a colossal set of bagatelles. Anderszewski’s 2001 recording of the piece, is one of the longest, oddest takes on the work, but who knows how his interpretation has changed in the intervening years? shriverconcerts.org

Stradella’s La Susanna. Opera Lafayette. April 21.

Opera Lafayette continues to expand the appeal of its offerings, with two of its three productions this season, all from Italy, performed in full stagings. The most intriguing work on the docket is La Susanna, an oratorio on the Biblical tale by Alessandro Stradella. The story about lecherous men in positions of power trying to force themselves on a young woman has particular resonance at this moment. Opera Lafayette and Heartbeat Opera co-produce this performance at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Earlier in the season will be Niccolò Jommelli’s Cerere Placata and Handel’s Radamistooperalafayette.org

Iestyn Davies and Thomas Dunford. Vocal Arts DC. May 14.

The lutesong recital by Iestyn Davies and Thomas Dunford, presented by Vocal Arts DC in 2014, was one of the top ten concerts that year. The English countertenor and French lutenist team up again on the series for a program called “England’s Orpheus,” combining songs by Dowland, Purcell, and Handel, at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. These musicians, the repertory, and this acoustic, which favors smaller sounds, all should combine to make a memorable evening of intimate music-making. vocalartsdc.org

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