DC Classical Music Performances: John Williams, “Carmen” and More
The Phillips Collection hosts a few more concerts before closing its musical season. In-person tickets are sold out for both, but if either of those days turns out to be less sunny (or even if it isn’t), the live streams are worth checking out. On May 8, tenor Karim Sulayman and fortepiano player Yi-heng Yang present an all-Schubert program titled “Where Only Stars Can Hear Us.”.” On May 19, the museum’s ‘Leading International Composers’ series will celebrate the music of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Tania León, with a selection of chamber works (including the US premiere of selections from her opera ‘Scourge of Hyacinths’ ) performed by pianist Conrad Tao, cellist Tom Kraines, violinist Maja Cerar and singers from the Cafritz Young Artists of the Washington National Opera. May 8 at 4 p.m.; May 19 at 6 p.m. phillipscollection.org. $15 virtual tickets ($10 for members).
Led by artistic directors Efi Hackmey and cellist Carrie Bean Stute, the lively Chiarina Chamber Players offer some of the most captivating chamber music programs in the city. On May 8, the ensemble closes its season with “Intersections: Music, Longing and Displacement,” a program of musically diverse pieces by first- and second-generation American composers, linked by common themes. A six-piece ensemble, with Stute on cello, will perform works by Mary Kouyoumdjian, Polina Nazaykinskaya, Tania León, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Mohammed Fairouz and Bright Sheng. In-person tickets are available, but each concert is also streamed live, for the lazy Sunday types. May 8 at 7:30 p.m. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 301 A St. SE. chiarina.org. $10 to $25 in person; free online.
The co-founder of the intrepid string quartet Brooklyn Rider returns to DC to present “This Is America”, a suite of 22 works for solo violin. Gandelsman has assembled something of a musical diary, as well as a gripping showcase of contemporary composers, shaped by the past two years of social and political upheaval and presented as a free concert at the Library of Congress. Alongside Bach (his Cello Suite No. 3 in C major transcribed for violin), Gandelsman will perform works by Rhiannon Giddens, Olivia Davis, Clarice Assad and Marika Hughes and a new work by Anjna Swaminathan commissioned by Washington Performing Arts ( program co-presenter with the Library of Congress). May 13 at 8 p.m. Library of Congress, Coolidge Auditorium, 101 Independence Ave. SE. washingtonperformingarts.com. Free; online registration required.
The Maryland Lyric Opera will present two performances of Verdi’s “Don Carlo” in any language (but here served in Italian). Louis Salemno will conduct the Orchestra and the MDLO Choir in a concert staging with enhanced visuals. A strong cast includes tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz in the lead role, soprano Elaine Alvarez singing Elisabetta, deep bass Andrea Silvestrelli as King Filippo, bass-baritone Mark Delavan as Rodrigo, mezzo-soprano Catherine Martin as Princess Eboli and bass Kenneth Kellogg as the Grand Inquisitor. May 13 at 7:30 p.m.; May 15 at 2 p.m. Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Ln., North Bethesda. mdlo.org. $10 to $150.
In the Met’s rarely staged five-act ‘Don Carlos’, one of history’s darkest periods still resonates
With “Carmen”, the Washington National Opera celebrates a true return to grand opera conducted by Francesca Zambello at the Kennedy Center. There will be a show inspired by bullfighters; there will be special guests (may I say? neigh, I can’t…); there will be the ever captivating music of Bizet, here conducted by Principal Conductor Evan Rogister. But there will also be a terrific cast, with mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard making her debut in the title role. Tenor Michael Fabiano makes his WNO Mainstage debut as Don José, as does bass-baritone (and Marian Anderson Award winner) Ryan Speedo Green as Escamillo. And Colombian-American soprano Vanessa Vasquez (who won the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in 2017) makes her debut as Micaëla. Alright, alright, there’s also a horse. May 14-28. Kennedy Center Opera House, 2700 F St. NW. kennedy-center.org/wno. $25 to $299.
The 80th season of the CCS continues with two spring concerts. On May 15, musical director Steven Fox will conduct a full performance of Verdi’s “Requiem” — performed by the company at its very first rehearsal in December 1941 — under the arches of Washington’s National Cathedral. And on June 18, at the National City Christian Church, Fox is teaming up with Stanley Thurston to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the Heritage Signature Chorale. “I too sing America: my spirit sings!” is part of an ongoing collaboration between the two groups to “highlight the contemporary and historic contributions that African Americans have made to American musical culture” through choral performances of Negro spirituals. May 15 at 4 p.m., Washington National Cathedral, 3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW, $25 to $108. June 18 at 4 p.m., National City Christian Church, 5 Thomas Circle NW, $25-$35. cathedralchoralsociety.org.
‘Defiant Requiem’ undermines musical hope of Holocaust horrors
Léo Delibes’ 1883 opera (to a French libretto by Edmond Gondinet) is rarely staged, probably due to its dominant Orientalist overtones – much in vogue in 18th-century Paris, less so today. Washington Concert Opera’s upcoming presentation sidesteps those cultural vagaries with a concert that showcases Delibes’ seductive music through a stellar cast of singers. Soprano Erin Morley performs the title role alongside Quebec tenor Frédéric Antoun. The bass-baritone Alfred Walker (in the role of Nilakantha), the baritone Theo Hoffman (in the role of Frédéric) and the mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven (in the role of Mallika) complete this solid formation. May 22 at 6 p.m. at Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. concertopera.org. $40 to $110.
This adventurous and reliable annual festival of female and marginalized composers (co-presented by Strathmore and the Boulanger Initiative) returns with more than a dozen performances over two days at two venues. It opens with a May 27 concert at the Church of the Epiphany in DC, featuring the East Coast premiere of Alexandra Gardner’s “Sanctuary of Joy,” performed by Boulanger Initiative co-founders Joy- Leilani Garbutt and Laura Colgate. WoCo continues all day May 28 at Amp by Strathmore in North Bethesda with a panel discussion and performances by percussion quartet Recap (joined by Lainie Fefferman), Leila Adu, Jiji (a former feature film debut ’21 for’ 21″), and a collaboration between Attacca Quartet and Caroline Shaw. May 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Epiphany Church, 1317 G St. NW, $30. May 28 at various times at Amp by Strathmore, 11810 Grand Park Ave., North Bethesda; $30-$40 per session, full day pass $100. bakerinitiative.org/woco-fest-2022.
21 for ’21: Composers and performers who sound like tomorrow
National Symphony Orchestra
The ONS kicks off the summer with some serious piano power: Emanuel Ax plays Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with conductor Marek Janowski June 9-11 (all at the Kennedy Center except June 10, Capital One Hall at Tysons), and Stewart Goodyear performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with conductor Kazuki Yamada June 16-18 (all at the Kennedy Center). But composer John Williams’ 90th birthday celebrations promise to be the real blockbuster. The anniversary gala concert on June 23 is sold out, but tickets remain for the ONS’s explorations of two of Williams’ most beloved film scores: “ET” (June 22) and “Jurassic Park” ( June 24). Various times. kennedy-center.org/nso.
The Washington Chorus closes its spring season with “Justice and Peace”. Along with the world premiere of composer Roshanne Etezady’s “Become the Sky”, the program will also include the DC premiere of Damien Geter’s “The Justice Symphony” as well as Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Dona Nobis Pacem”, a moving cantata for choir, orchestra and soloists. After the long pandemic hiatus, artistic director Eugene Rogers will make his chorus and orchestral debut with TWC, who is joined by soprano Karen Slack (who is making her TWC debut) and baritone Kerry Wilkerson. June 12 at 5 p.m. Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW. thewashingtonchorus.org. $15 to $49.