- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 8, 2001

As summer's heat and humidity make way for autumn's chill, Washington's relatively light summertime musical fare ripens into a substantial harvest of fall concert dates.
This year offers more dates than ever as an exciting new concert venue is born. Washington's concertgoers have learned to cherry-pick choice events at George Mason University's Center for the Arts in Fairfax, even though they probably would rather not brave the traffic jams on Braddock Road. But this year they'll also have the option of attending concerts at a beautiful though untested new facility in Prince George's County — the huge Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on the College Park campus of the University of Maryland.
Dedication week for the center starts Sept. 21. Promising events include a big-band evening with the Air Force's Airmen of Note (Sept. 23), a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra and university-based choral groups (Sept. 28) and a six-piano concert featuring the ragtime music of Eubie Blake with guest jazz vocalist Ethel Ennis (Sept. 30). Regular season highlights include a jazz evening with the Regina Carter Quintet (Oct. 13), classical music with the Cavani String Quartet (Oct. 14) and a piano trio concert with cellist Janos Starker, violinist William Preucil and pianist Shigeo Neriki (Dec. 13).
Back across the river, best bets at George Mason this fall are performances by the underrated Virginia Opera and the equally unsung Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, both of which regularly bring the classics to the masses at fairly reasonable prices. Based in Norfolk, the Virginia Opera regularly transports its productions to Richmond and to Fairfax. This fall, it will be at Mason for performances of Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca" (Oct. 19 and 21) and William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's nutty "The Mikado" (Nov. 30 and Dec. 2).
The Fairfax Symphony, under the baton of William Hudson, will open its season with a bill of duo-piano concertos Sept. 22. Pianists Pascal Roge of France and 14-year-old Vanessa Benelli of Italy will perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos in E flat major and Francis Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos. Solo bassoonist Mark Gigliotti can be heard Oct. 13 in Carl Maria von Weber's Bassoon Concerto in F major. This program concludes with a performance of Ottorino Respighi's "Pines of Rome." On Nov. 3, famed violinist Jaime Laredo teams with the symphony in Mozart's Concerto No. 3 in G major for Violin in a program that also features Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 2 in D major.
Other performers at Mason include pianist Awadagin Pratt on Nov. 16.
Let us not forget Washington and the Kennedy Center, the home of the area's two classical powerhouses — the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington Opera. Although maestro Leonard Slatkin is now sharing himself with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London, he continues to put his strong stamp on the NSO.
This year, the orchestra is offering a well-calibrated mix of old and new works to tempt a more diverse audience. Already under way is its annual Beethoven Festival, focusing this year on the artistry of young performers. They include pianist Adam Neiman, performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Opus 60, subtitled the "Emperor" tonight and violinist Elisabeth Batiashvili playing the Violin Concerto in D major, Opus 61, on Friday.
On Sept. 15, Mr. Neiman and Miss Batiashvili will be joined by cellist Alisa Weilerstein in Beethoven's Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C major, Opus 56, in a program that will include the stirring Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, the "Eroica" or "Heroic."
One of the NSO's more interesting regular season concerts takes place Sept. 20-22, a performance of Antonin Dvorak's "New World Symphony" and Leonard Bernstein's raucously celebratory yet deeply moving "Chichester Psalms" assisted by the Choral Arts Society of Washington. Also scheduled Sept. 20-22 is a "world premiere" of a "new" Beethoven "Overture to Macbeth," a work, according to news releases, "completed from sketches by Albert Willem Holsbergen." It remains to be seen whether this so-called Beethoven overture will work its way into the musical literature. But it's always a great parlor game to listen to this kind of thing and see how good the orchestration is, how inventive the themes are and to fight about whether the composer was right to have abandoned it in a cupboard somewhere.
Earlier in the day on Sept. 22 will be one of the NSO's delightful "Kinderkonzerts" ("Kiddie Concerts") featuring NSO flutist Carole Bean, harpist Dotian Levalier, and oboist William Wielgus. Geared toward children 4 and older, the concert features works by the "three B's" — Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.
Also sure to be great fun is "More Drums Along the Potomac," the latest installment of a short festival the orchestra established in 1999 to spotlight Scottish superstar percussionist Evelyn Glennie. This year's festival runs Oct. 4-6 and offers world premiere percussion concertos by Joan Tower and George Tsontakis and a U.S. premiere by Chen Yi. Other works during the festival will include George Gershwin's snappy "Cuban Overture," Edgard Varese's weirdly mesmerizing "Ionisation" and Maurice Ravel's crowd-pleasing "Bolero."
A bit less noisy but of equal interest will be the NSO's Nov. 1-3 concerts featuring a performance of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in E major, rarely heard in Washington. A sort of cross between Wagner and Mahler, Bruckner's heroic symphonies are characterized by driving scherzos and huge, massed brass choirs, and are a profoundly moving experience for lovers of late Romantic music. Also on the program, conducted by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, will be Paul Hindemith's Viola Concerto, Opus 36, No. 4, featuring violist Daniel Foster.
The Washington Opera is taking a big step this season by staging all its operas in the Opera House, a dream of Artistic Director Placido Domingo. But to do this, the company is changing the structure of its season. Instead of its usual late-October opening, the season's first opera, Jacques Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffmann" is opening tonight, with three more operas scheduled in the coming weeks. But opera won't return until March 30, when Giuseppe Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera" ("A Masked Ball") opens.
The Washington Opera is offering a tried-and-true lineup this year, and most performances should sell quite briskly. Offenbach primarily composed frothy 19th-century French operettas. But with "Tales of Hoffmann," he penned an operatic masterpiece about the life and loves of famed tale-teller and rake Ernst Hoffmann. The composer never lived to see it produced, and various endings are fiddled with to this day.
Director Marta Domingo, wife of Mr. Domingo, will present her own version in these performances. The stellar cast includes Washington's own Denyce Graves in a mezzo "trouser role" as Hoffmann's companion Nicklausse, Metropolitan opera bass-baritone Alan Held singing three of the famous "four villains" roles, and bass C.Y. Liao singing the other. This new co-production, shared with the Kirov Opera/Mariinksy Theater of St. Petersburg and the Los Angeles Opera, will be conducted by Emmanuel Villaume (Sept. 8 to Oct. 5).
Rotating with "Hoffmann" and opening Sept. 13 will be Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte" ("They All Do It"). The music is well known, and the opera is frequently staged. The appeal this time is the cast. Met stars and brothers Richard and Dwayne Croft portray Ferrando and Guglielmo, and Dwayne Croft's wife, soprano Ainho Arteta, sings the role of Fiordiligi. The other female lead, Dorabella, will be sung by Joyce DiDonato. The production is from Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile, and will be conducted by Music Director Heinz Fricke.
Mr. Domingo has delivered every year on his promise to stage at least one American opera. Opening on Oct. 8 will be the company's production of Carlisle Floyd's "Of Mice and Men," an opera based on John Steinbeck's Depression-era novella. Performances are conducted by the San Diego Opera's Karen Keltner, and Michael Hendrick and Rod Nelman star as the unhappy but idealistic Lennie and George. Francesca Zambello directs, in the co-production with the Bregenz Festival in Austria and the Houston Grand Opera (Oct. 20 through Nov. 12).
Wrapping up the company's fall stanza will be 10 performances of Puccini's beloved "Madama Butterfly." This Polish production from Warsaw's Teatr Wielki-Opera Narodowa will be conducted by Renato Palumbo with choreography by Emil Wesolowski. The title role will be shared by three sopranos — Veronica Villarroel, Catherine Malfitano and Xiu Wei Sun. Tenors Marcus Haddock and Dariusz Stachura platoon as the American sailor, Pinkerton, and Elizabeth Bishop sings the role of Suzuki. Performances run Oct. 27 to Nov. 17. In the spring, in addition to the Verdi, the company will mount ambitious productions of Richard Strauss' "Salome," Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky's "The Queen of Spades" and Georges Bizet's ever-popular "Carmen."
Rounding out the area's musical schedule are numerous performances by smaller, less-publicized groups.
For example, Stephen Simon's Washington Chamber Symphony, usually performing at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, is noted for championing music of the baroque period. What's not well known is that the ensemble frequently debuts new music by American composers. In one such concert, the orchestra premieres John Carbon's unusual Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra featuring Richard Fredrickson as soloist. Performances are Friday and Sept. 15.
The eclectic In Series of concerts and theatrical events is celebrating its 20th season this year. Its season-opening reprise of last year's "Marriage of Figaro: The Las Vegas Version," a wild update to the Mozart opera set in 1960s Vegas, starts tonight and runs through Sept. 15 at Arlington's Clark Street Playhouse. Another good bet this fall will be the series' cabaret-opera evening "Of Love and War," an evocative musical event featuring works of Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler, Friedrich Hollaender, Kurt Weill and Leos Janacek (Nov. 16-24 at the Czech Republic Embassy).
The Arlington Symphony moves its classical concert series and its new holiday pops program to the new Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at Northern Virginia Community College's Alexandria campus.
Mrs. Schlesinger was for many years a violinist with the symphony and president of the board. The classical series of five performances will be held Saturday evenings — Sept. 29, Oct. 20, Nov. 17, March 23 and May 4. The holiday pops program is set for Dec. 8.

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