Glass in Virginia: two opera companies offer audiences more to love

Philip Glass turned 75 last week, and there were celebrations and commemorations all over the place, notably the exclusive release of his 9th Symphony on iTunes and its American premiere performance at Carnegie Hall. (The release quickly went to #1 on the iTunes classical chart, and even broke into the upper reaches of the overall chart.)

But the biggest commemoration in the Washington area comes from an unexpected source: the Virginia Opera, whose production of Glass’s Orphee opened in Norfolk on January 28 and comes to Fairfax this weekend.

Opera in Virginia appears to be in a good way these days — at least, there’s more of it. In an article this weekend (For Virginia opera lovers, it’s a whole new scene), I took a brief look at the state’s two opera companies: one approaching its 40th anniversary, and one newly created in the wake of the public schism between the company and its long-time general director, Peter Mark. Mark has now founded his own company, Lyric Opera Virginia, which seems to be finding its own audience and has had success with its first two productions of this maiden season.

As for the Virginia Opera, it’s bringing an exciting production of a strong work — an opera that won over the company’s consulting artistic advisor, Robin Thompson, when he saw it at Glimmerglass in 2007. And for those who are unconvinced by Glass’s reputation, the composer’s 75th birthday is a fine time to consider a reappraisal of one of the most important figures in today’s music world.

Above, snippets of “Orphee” in a production from Linz as introduced on Austrian television, which describes the music as “at once contemporary and familiar.”

Anne Midgette came to the Washington Post in 2008, when she consolidated her various cultural interests under the single title of chief classical music critic. She blogs at The Classical Beat.

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