Links: Josh Bell as music director; two local opera companies make good(ish); and other weekend highlights.

This weekend, I checked out two local start-up opera companies: the fledgling Urban Arias, devoted to contemporary music, and the established Opera Lafayette, specializing in the French Baroque. Urban Arias offered a world premiere; Opera Lafayette offered Paisiello’s version of “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” written more than 3 decades before Rossini’s.

Joe Banno, meanwhile, heard Joshua Bell in his maiden tour as music director of the Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields, and was very impressed indeed.

Robert Battey was a little disappointed by the Diotima Quartet on Friday night at the Library of Congress. He was, however, cautiously optimistic about the ensemble Juilliard Baroque on Saturday night at the same venue.

And Stephen Brookes appreciated the first half of the NSO’s “Affirmations” concert, with Sweet Honey in the Rock. The world premiere by William C. Banfield, however, left him cold.

Above: The violinist Joshua Bell has taken on a new role as music director of the academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields; he appeared with them in DC on Friday night.

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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