Kennedy Center focuses on American vocalism in 2013-14

The Kennedy Center has announced a 2013-14 season with a lot of American song, and a lot of opera. What’s not to like?

The Americana effectively dominates the center’s festival program, which includes a number of smaller festivals celebrating a whole range of aspects of our country’s vocal art, from hip hop culture to choral singing (“Voices of our Nation: Celebrating the Choral Tradition”) to a three-day festival focused on the soprano Renee Fleming but spotlighting six distinct genres of vocal performance, from classical to country.

An American focus, too, finally permeates the Washington National Opera, which in its first season of Francesca Zambello’s tenure is offering the local premiere of Jake Heggie’s fine opera “Moby-Dick” and a world premiere of a new family opera written by Jeanine Tesori, in addition to continuing the commissioning program for shorter works that it launched this year.

The biggest things on WNO’s calendar, at least in terms of vocal scale, are probably ”La Forza del destino” (directed by Zambello) and “Tristan und Isolde” (starring Deborah Voigt), marking the bicentennials of Verdi and Wagner respectively. We’re also getting “The Elixir of Love” and “The Magic Flute” — the company seems now to be listing all of its titles in English.

The National Symphony Orchestra is featuring opera, too: Act III of Wagner’s “Parsifal” and all of Richard Strauss’s “Rosenkavalier,” reuniting the orchestra’s music director, Christoph Eschenbach, with Fleming, one of his favorite artistic partners. The orchestra will also offer an evening of Strauss scenes with Irene Theorin. On another performing front, it’s staging a three-week festival of music and contemporary dance that will include the local premiere of a concerto by Marc Neikrug and a new piece by Pulitzer-winner George Walker.

The orchestra will also present a new multimedia work celebrating the life of George Washington by the composer Roger Reynolds.

Some of the biggest highlights, for my money, come on the Fortas Chamber Music series: the Takacs Quartet playing the complete Bartok quartets; Eschenbach and Matthias Goerne in Schubert’s “Schöne Müllerin,” and Evgeny Kissin and Maxim Vengerov in a joint recital of music by Jewish composers.

Complete listings can be found at www.kennedycenter.org, now that the website is working again.

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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