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Friday, January 28, 2005; Page C08

Washington Concert Opera

Designed by the celebrated architect Philip Johnson, who died Tuesday, the Kreeger Museum provides an inspiring setting for chamber music events. (When the museum was his home, David Kreeger liked to play his Strad there informally with the Juilliard Quartet.) Surrounded by luminous Monets and other paintings Kreeger collected, young singers from the Washington Concert Opera offered a gleaming Wednesday evening of solo arias, duos and trios from six operas of Charles Gounod.

Covering nearly three decades, the works included the French composer's operatic versions of plots and characters ranging from classical mythology ("Sapho" and "Philemon et Baucis") to dramas of Goethe ("Faust") and Shakespeare ("Romeo and Juliet") and some works rarely heard ("La Reine de Saba" and "Cinq-Mars").

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony played the 9:30 club Wednesday, albeit without ousted member Bizzie Bone, far right. From left are Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone and Wish Bone. (1997 Photo Peter Dokus -- Ruthless Records)

Colleen Daly's glistening soprano floated agilely through elaborate cadenzas, as in the familiar waltz "Ah! Je veux vivre." Tenor Tanner Knight has a lovely lyrical quality, his highest notes no less than rapturous. Michelle Rice enlisted her supple mezzo to reach contralto depths with tones of pure gold. In ensembles, all three singers interwove their lines with finesse, capturing much of the operas' essential drama and their emotive colors, even suggesting the music's visual aspects.

But artistic director Antony Walker's tedious, often irrelevant or inaudible commentary marred an otherwise beautiful evening, his talk consuming over half of the 2 1/2-hour program, while missed notes riddled his piano accompaniments, and fortissimos often overrode the singing.

-- Cecelia Porter

Slack Key Guitar Festival

Some music makes much ado of nothing, or a fuss over a few crumbs. Then there's slack-key guitar. Listen to it lightly, and it's lulling; pay attention to the details, and you could drown in them.

The Barns at Wolf Trap presented three masters of the Hawaiian genre on Wednesday. Young Chris Yeaton, the group's "token haole" (white person), drew from the circle of guitars on the stage -- the color of their wood evoking sand, their strings glinting like sun on water -- to produce tone poems that were heavy on embellishment, sometimes evoking the guitar workouts of John Fahey.

Yeaton's melodies were difficult to discern, but when the next musician, John Keawe, played (and occasionally sang), the tunes came to the fore above the genre's characteristic chiming harmonics and rolling accompaniment.

Both Yeaton and Keawe acknowledged the influence of Keola Beamer on their work. When Beamer took the stage at the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival after intermission, his engaging set was a primer in the renaissance of Hawaiian music, which he helped to bring about in the 1970s, and an expression of its range. Accompanied by his wife, Moanalani Beamer, on rich, throaty vocals, flowing dance and occasional percussion, the slack-key legend opened with the exquisite "Makee Ailana," on which his hands coaxed rhythms and flourishes from all parts of his instrument.

He demonstrated a soft but strong baritone on "He Wahine Hololio" and high romance with the lyrics and stringwork of "Kananaka." Not to overlook his humor, both musical and spoken: Gazing at the Barns' wood-beamed walls and ceiling, he remarked, "With some drywall, this thing would be great."

-- Pamela Murray Winters

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

When Bone Thugs-N-Harmony first appeared on the scene, it seemed their departure from the rap game would occur as quickly as their double-time delivery. The unique, repetitive rhymes and hypnotic, hymnlike tracks of their 1994 debut "Creepin On Ah Come Up" smacked of a short-lived novelty act. But at the 9:30 club Wednesday night, current members Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone and Wish Bone delivered a set that helped explain their enduring popularity. Even without ousted member Bizzie Bone, the rappers held their own.

The Bone Thugs even did away with the usual hip-hop concert song sequencing, delivering their best-known material early on. Their ode to the welfare check, "1st of tha Month," and duets that featured tracks from the late Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur were among the first songs performed. The high-pitched synth squeal that introduces "Tha Crossroads," their most popular song to date, arrived before the set reached the 30-minute mark.

Performing the radio favorites upfront seemed a signal that the show would end early, but it turned out to be a way for the men to devote more time to the songs that have solidified their cult status: those that explore the ups and downs of chemical dependency.

"We don't promote drugs, we just use 'em," Wish told the crowd before a trio of stimulant-themed songs: "Ecstasy," "Bad Weed Blues" and the reverential "Weed Song." But after that medley, the show deteriorated. The group tried to end with "Days of Our Livez," a pensive tune that shows off its harmonies, but couldn't bear to leave the stage. The final minutes of freestyling and rhyming over other groups' beats showed that, despite their years of experience, the Bone Thugs haven't learned how to end a show on a high note.

-- Sarah Godfrey

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