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Classical Beat
Posted at 03:53 PM ET, 07/30/2011

Of Wolf Trap and other festivals

This blog has been taking an unannounced vacation this month. To help ease back into the swing of things, here are links to some coverage of the region’s summer festivals, starting with the DC area’s own national park for the performing arts, Wolf Trap, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this summer. In an article that runs in the print edition this weekend, I argue that although Wolf Trap used to offer the likes of Jessye Norman and Aaron Copland and Martha Graham and now offers things like Video Games Live and the Sing-along Sound of Music, it’s not Wolf Trap that’s changed: what’s changed is the nature of the basically middlebrow audience that Wolf Trap serves. Back in 1971, it was easier to find 7,000 people who wanted to hear Julius Rudel conduct a scene from Boito’s “Mephistofele” than it is, today, to fill a house with yet another all-Tchaikovsky program. I was particularly struck by hearing from several independent sources that today there are only five classical artists who can reliably sell out a concert: Renee Fleming, Lang Lang, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, and Itzhak Perlman. (No one said these were the best artists, just that they were the ones with this particular kind of star power.)

The question of whether Wolf Trap could be more artistically ambitious, or satisfying, is another one. What are your thoughts on Wolf Trap’s programming, then and now? Do you regularly attend? And what are your thoughts on the declining numbers of classical-music superstars?

In related reviews, here is some of this summer’s coverage from Wolf Trap:

My review of Sweeney Todd, in which I incited the wrath of music theater buffs by dismissing Angela Lansbury as a non-singing character actress. (For the record, I know that she spent years in musicals, and she remains my favorite Mrs. Lovett; I was carelessly attempting to characterize the difference between her performance on the original cast recording and that of a trained opera singer in the same part.)

My review of the NSO@Wolf Trap’s all-Tchaikovsky progam, marking the violinist Caroline Goulding’s debut with the orchestra (remember that name, if not necessarily this performance).

Wolf Trap, of course, is far from over, and one event I’m looking forward to is the opera company’s concert with alumni from four decades — including Lawrence Brownlee, Stephanie Blythe, Alan Held, Denyce Graves — on August 24. Marketing this concert as “Opera’s Greatest Hits” is certainly not the best way to reach its target audience.

On another festival front, here is our coverage of selected July events at the Castleton festival:

Robert Battey on a concert performance of Porgy and Bess at the Hylton Center.

Joan Reinthaler reviewed a concert in which Lorin Maazel and Denyce Graves marked the Battle of Bull Run.

And on the final weekend, I finally made it out to Virginia to see and hear Maazel conduct Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortileges (on a double bill with Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins).

What were your experiences of Wolf Trap and Castleton to date?

By  |  03:53 PM ET, 07/30/2011

 
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