Best Show at Wolf Trap
Firstly, let me say that this is a wholly unfair question, as we have such a breadth of genres and performers that come through our two venues…. it’s like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach and only being able to pick one thing! (Which we all know never works out…)
So my Best Show goes to two very different groups:
The Wolf Trap Opera Alumni Concert at the Filene Center was a special evening for me in many ways. To meet such a wonderful, warm group of people who counted Wolf Trap as crucial to their artistic development was an event in and of itself. But knowing that they had donated their services? Well, it made the experience that much richer, that much more meaningful. Additionally, the fact that we were in rehearsal when a 5.8 earthquake rattled through Northern Virginia just reinforces my opinion that it was an earth-shaking (get it?) occasion. Some of the finest music-making I've heard in my musical life was on that stage, that night. (And I wasn't alone in feeling that it was a special evening - The Washington Post's Anne Midgette named it one of her top 5 performances of the year!)
The other contender? Earth Wind and Fire. It was a show that I attended with family and friends, and we had a blast! We sang, we laughed, we may have shook our booties a little bit…Those guys have a great, high-powered show, full of songs that I recognized (am I dating myself? Maybe…), and others that I knew but never attributed to EWF. And I loved seeing two generations on the stage together!
Best Show Somewhere Other than Wolf Trap
Fidelio, at Houston Grand Opera. This house produces some of the most consistently stunning operatic work in the nation, and it's teeming with former Trappers. (Coincidence? I’m not sure…) I hadn't ever seen this piece before, Beethoven's only opera, but it was playing when we swung through Houston on the audition tour this fall. After having heard hundreds of arias and feeling, let's be honest, a tiny bit jaded about all things operatic, this powerful paean to true love and fidelity renewed my love for the art form. At the beginning of the second act, Florestan (played by WTOC Alum Simon O'Neill, last seen at the FC in the 2007 production of Carmen with the National Symphony) is chained in a dungeon, singing of his faith in his beloved. The set was dark, and the most beautiful, anguished, hopeful sound came spinning out of the blackness…and just grew until in enveloped the entire audience. (Even without amps, Simon goes to 11.)
Best Recording/Release of the Year
I'm a singer-songwriter junkie and have been listening to Gabriel Kahane's Where are the Arms almost non-stop for several weeks. While he comes from a classical home (Dad Jeffrey is a conductor/composer/pianist, and Steve Blier has programmed some of Gabriel's art songs on his recital series at The Barns.), his music is accessible and his lyrics are heartbreaking. For an introspective start, try “Merritt Parkway” or “Icebox”.
What I'm looking forward to in 2012
In The Barns, violinist Rachel Barton Pine. She's an amazingly accomplished violinist, but what you probably didn't know is that she also plays violin in a heavy metal band called Earthen Grave. I don't know if she'll pull any of the metal out for her Discovery Series show, but just knowing that she has varied musical interests makes me want to hear her.
And I have to mention the vocal concert featuring Opera Company Alums and our own Kim Pensinger Witman – their musical responses to Terre Jones’ photographs from his upcoming book America’s National Parks: Through the Artist’s Lens will be a fantastic night of music and stunning visuals. Outside of the Barns, I’m excited to see Ryan Adams (seems to be a popular choice among my colleagues!), The Black Keys, and a vocal concert programmed around the Dallas Museum of Art's Gaultier's exhibit.