A look back at top performances and highlights of the Washington arts scene.
By Patrick D. McCoy
It has been quite a vibrant year for the arts in our nation’s capital. We’ve rounded up our “Top 5” highlights from 2014 and we look forward to continued coverage of our mainstay performances at the Kennedy Center and the Music Center at Strathmore, as well as new outings, performances and conversations with great artists.
5. Recordings, sopranos and divas: You don’t have to go very far to find star-quality opera singers, especially sopranos. Two talented sopranos embarked on unique concert and recording projects. Danielle Talamantes recently hosted a launch recital for her new CD “Canciones espanolas” featuring the music of Spanish composers not commonly recorded. Accompanied by pianist Henry Dehlinger, the recording is a wonderful musical exploration of vocal repertoire that sometimes does not get equal attention in the concert hall. Downtown at All Soul’s Church, Marlissa Hudson took it all the way out of the box in a special program she assembled called “The Conversation.” A concert fusing jazz, gospel and classical music together, Hudson uniquely created a space that allowed seemingly different genres to co-exist together.
4. Saving the day: Washington National Opera presented duo opera couple soprano Ailyn Perez and tenor Stephen Costello in what was billed as a joint effort. The program actually became the impromptu Kennedy Center recital debut for Perez in light of her husband’s illness which prevented him from performing with this wife. Though the audience may have been disappointed at first, Perez wowed them with a diverse program of recital repertoire and opera arias. We left wanting to hear more from this voice that certainly has the making of a superstar soprano.
3. Across State Lines: WL Performing Arts served as moderator for the symposium series at the Colour of Music Festival in Charleston, SC. Founded by Lee Pringle, the festival celebrates the contributions of African American classical musicians. Also participating from the Washington arts community was Folger Consort manager Jennifer Bowman and Wayne Brown, who served as director of music and opera for the National Endowment of the Arts before becoming CEO of the Michigan Opera Theatre.
2. New Lady in Town: This year’s addition to the pantheon of arts leadership in Washington was Deborah F. Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center. Rutter, the center’s first female president, had her first official outing at the National Symphony Opening Ball Concert. Also on hand for the festivities was concert violinist Joshua Bell, who added to the air of celebration apparent with Rutter’s arrival.
1. A First of Many: The Washington Chorus gave a powerful performance of Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis” for its season opener. The chorus itself has performed the work several times before, but it was the first time music director Julian Wachner had ever conducted the work professionally. In his post reception remarks, Wachner shared the fact that he steered away from approaching the work because he never had a choir that could perform it. The maestro could not have asked for a better first outing with such a large-scale work. Homegrown bass Kevin Thompson got the opportunity to make his Kennedy Center main stage debut unexpectedly after being called to replace the previously cast bass soloist. What a heartwarming moment it was to witness two young men experience two unique musical milestones in the context of a large-scale performance.
As we move into 2015, we await the many performance opportunities ahead as the arts get into full swing.