Heads Up Opera Fans! This Saturday, March 19

Wolf Trap summer tickets, including opera tickets, go on sale to the general public at 10 am, Saturday, March 19 at several price levels!  Check your schedules for the periods June 10-18, Jul 15-23, and Friday, Aug 5 and go online to http://www.wolftrap.org/opera.aspx to pick your seats.

I feel very comfortable enthusiastically recommending Wolftrap Opera to you.  WTO Director Kim Pensinger Witman and her colleagues spend much of each Fall staging auditions around the country in order to select young performers for the much vied-for Filene Young Artists program.  The operas to be performed are not decided until the young artists are selected to make the best fit.  The talent level performing at these operas is thus very high.  Many of these singers will go on to careers in the top opera houses across the U.S.  Wolf Trap Opera can point to a legion of young singers who honed their craft there and moved on to successful singing careers.  The staging for these operas, though not as elaborate as you will see at the major opera venues, surprises and delights with creativity, enhancing the telling of the story.  There are many exceptional individuals involved in these productions.  The WTO website is chock full of information and details on their programs and artists.  I only really became aware of WTO in the last couple of years.  I attended Don Giovanni two years ago and The Ghosts of Versaille last year, both in the Barns location, a small indoor, rustic theater, and Madama Butterfly last year in the outdoor, but covered Filene Center (many families have picnics there prior to the performance).  All were excellent, but my son and I thought Ghosts was about as good theater as we have seen anywhere.  Supertitles providing English translations are available at both locations.

I am actually kind of excited about the two being staged at the Barns.  Benjamin Britten (b.1913-d.1976) is a composer from the modern era and I am looking forward to sampling his music firsthand.  The Rape of Lucretia is based on a historical legend from Roman history.  Britten and colleagues were trying to produce works at the least possible expense, presumably to increase their accessibility, and Britten referred to Lucretia as a chamber opera.  An interesting feature of the opera is two two-person choruses with a two-male chorus covering thoughts of the male lead and a two-female chorus explaining the thoughts of the female lead.  It all sounds very interesting. 

L’Opera Seria (1769) by Bohemian composer Florian Gassmann (b.1729-d.1774) has played to recent acclaim in Europe according to Ms. Witman, though he is apparently better known for well regarded symphonies and chamber music.  A fall from a carriage led to his untimely death.  I read that the opera is a satire on the state of opera seria in his day (opera seria is defined in Wikipedia as an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and “serious” style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from 1710 to 1770).  I am not familiar with this opera or the composer’s work, but given that the lead sopranos are named Smirky, Out-of-Tune, and Purple-Face, I am willing to venture that it is a comedy.  And I am willing to bet that the young performers will extract every ounce of enjoyment from it for your evening’s pleasure. 

The selection for the Filene Center is La Boheme on August 5.  The performances in the Filene Center also include the National Symphony Orchesta; no small benefit that.  Operas selected for the Filene Center are intended to appeal to a wider audience by staging them in a fun and popular location, and in particular, to appeal to people who might want to try out opera to see if they like it.  At last year’s Butterfly, I was amazed and pleased by the number of young people in the audience.  Our genes, including the opera gene are often repressed until some event releases them.  You will see most experts recommending La Boheme as an opera for newbies because it is so accessible, a drama that will touch your heart and which offers simply gorgeous music by Puccini (remember the NSO will be playing it). 

One final suggestion is to get there early enough to hear the pre-opera talk.  I think my son and I would have been a little lost had we not heard Ms. Witman’s explanation of Ghosts and its background.  These talks are definitely recommended.