His seas are seldom calm -- they boil and they roar. Sunsets rip his skies. The North Atlantic seascapes of the aging Winslow Homer must be among the grandest ever made by an American. "Winslow Homer in the 1890s: Prout's Neck Observed," the touring show now visiting the National Museum of American Art, brings us 15 of his oils. It's not a large exhibit. It nonetheless feels mighty. When you step into the gallery, the beauty of the paintings -- their drama and ferocity -- almost knocks you down. CLASSICAL MUSIC Verdi's "Rigoletto," the Washington Opera's final production of the season, will have its first performance Saturday night in the Opera House. Other vocal highlights include the Folger Consort with countertenor Drew Minter Saturday, Sunday and Monday at the Folger Library; tenor James McDonald in the song cycle "Who Are These Children?" by Benjamin Britten, Saturday in the University of Maryland's Tawes Recital Hall; Jubilate, presenting the world premiere of a work by Thomas Beveridge, today at St. Columba's Episcopal Church; the World Children's Choir, Wednesday noon at the World Bank; Carolyn Smith, soprano, Friday night at the French Embassy.
Rafael Fruehbeck de Burgos will conduct the National Symphony Orchestra, with mezzo-soprano Florence Quivar, tenor Kenneth Riegel, baritone Kevin McMillian, bass-baritone Justino Diaz and the Oratorio Society in Berlioz's "The Damnation of Faust," this week at the Kennedy Center. Other orchestral activity will include the Vienna Philharmonic, Wednesday night in the Kennedy Center; the Smithsonian Chamber Orchestra, Thursday night in the Terrace Theater; the NSO's Youth Orchestra Day, conducted by Randall Craig Fleischer, Friday at the Kennedy Center; the National Chamber Orchestra, with violist Marcus Thompson, Friday at the Duke Ellington School and Saturday at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre; the Prince William Symphony, Saturday night at Gar-Field High School.
Pianists of the week: Anne Koscielny, today at the Phillips Collection; Lillian Kallir, tonight at the National Gallery.
Violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Lynn Harrell and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy will highlight the week's chamber music, Saturday at the Kennedy Center. Also worth noting: Musicians From Marlboro, Tuesday night in the Terrace Theater; Ulrike Anima Mathe, violin, today in the Terrace Theater; Pamela Frank, violin, today at the University of Maryland; William Feasley, guitar, with Rosa Lamoreaux, soprano, and flutist Karen Johnson, Thursday night at Mount Vernon College; String Sextet, Wednesday noon in the Kennedy Center Grand Foyer; the Friday Morning Music Club, Friday noon, at the Sumner School; the Fine Arts Quartet, Friday night in the Terrace Theater; the DeReggi Inter-Arts Ensemble, performing music of Vyacheslav Artyomov, Friday night at Strathmore Hall; the Annapolis Brass Quintet, Saturday night at Dumbarton Church. THEATER The good theater news this week is that Jon Spelman's low-key and mesmerizing one-man show at the Woolly Mammoth on Monday and Tuesday mights has been extended through March 26. The performance artist as storyteller, Spelman's experiences with fatherhood and the loss of his parents, as well as things like nearly sinking into a volcano, have given him his unique take on mortality. Alternately funny and poetic, at times nearly mystical, Spelman is the best company imaginable, not to be missed.
At Arena Stage, Douglas C. Wager has directed a "Pygmalion" that comes out from under the romantic shadow of "My Fair Lady" and returns to Shaw's thorny, tough-minded world. As the pedantic Henry Higgins and his acerbic mother, Richard Bauer and Tammy Grimes are perfectly believable as son and mother -- they seem to come from the same eccentric planet; the comedy planet, perhaps. Bauer's Higgins is frequently hilarious, but he's also moving: an idealist who ends up the victim of his own ideals. This is Shaw done not only with humor but with real intelligence -- it becomes about the cost our principles exact from us. Wager reminds us that though the play is less emotionally satisfying than the musical, it's far greater.