On Tuesday, the Kennedy Center, which has been experimenting with the rollout of its season announcements for the past couple of years, announced, without a news conference or fanfare, the 2018-2019 seasons of its classical music constituents: the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera and the Fortas Chamber Music Concerts.
The NSO continues to feel what one might term the Gianandrea Noseda effect, with a new level of offerings and programming in the second season of its new music director. Britten's War Requiem with Karina Flores, Ian Bostridge and Matthias Goerne. A program of Vivaldi, Gesualdo, Dallapiccola and Rossini's "Stabat Mater." And, a guest performance, Verdi's "I Vespri Siciliani," with the forces of Noseda's longtime musical home Teatro Regio Torino — just announced as one of the highlights of the Carnegie Hall season — is coming to Washington as well. It feels like moving into a new gear.
Noseda will conduct for 12 weeks in Washington next season. The schedule has him pairing a new orchestral work by Mason Bates with Mahler's first symphony, and Luciano Berio's folk song arrangements, sung by the mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili, with Dvorak's "New World." He will also lead the second symphony of Alfredo Casella, whose work he has long been championing; and a Schubert program featuring Renée Fleming singing orchestral arrangements of lieder.
"I don't want to be seen as a sort of eclectic conductor," said Noseda on Monday, speaking by phone from Paris, where he is rehearsing the Orchestre de Paris. "I try to encourage the curiosity of the audience, but sometimes also to play what they expect an orchestra to play."
"We want everyone to feel welcome here," he said in a press statement, "whether it's a listener's first or fiftieth concert."
There's quite a bit for both sides in the 2018-2019 season. The NSO will see its debut of Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, the Lithuanian shooting star who is now music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, in a French program; and a world premiere by Lera Auerbach, "Arctica," co-commissioned by the National Geographic Society, on a program of recent music conducted by Teddy Abrams as part of the Direct Current festival.
It will also host two mini-festivals that the orchestra's executive director, Gary Ginstling, describes as "two programming initiatives that share the same goals": live performances of the John Williams scores to Episodes 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Star Wars franchise on the one hand, and, on the other, a mini-festival called Mozart Forever, with three all-Mozart programs conducted by Nathalie Stutzmann and featuring principal players from the orchestra.
The problem with staggering the season announcements is that without knowing the full scope of some of the more adventurous programming — the Direct Current festival, or Bates's KC Jukebox series — the classical offerings, overall, seem a little tame. A major focus of 2018-2019 will be a Celebration of Italian Culture, an evident throwback to the annual national festivals that have long been a hallmark of the center — but it's not clear yet exactly what that festival will consist of, beyond two Italian programs from the NSO, the visit from the Torino troops, and, the Washington National Opera's contribution, "Tosca."
WNO is holding to what seems to be its established pattern of big war horses with one American work — Kevin Puts's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Silent Night" — and the American Opera Initiative to carry the new (this year's one-hour work, "Taking Up Serpents," is by the interesting composer Kamala Sankaram, whose "Thumbprint," produced by Beth Morrison, was performed in several places around the country). The season opens with a new "Traviata," directed by WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, and continues with "Eugene Onegin" (in the beautiful Robert Carsen production originally seen at the Met, and with a predominantly Russian cast) and "Faust," the first time either of those works has been done in Washington in some decades. Erin Wall stars in "Faust," conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson, in a production from the Houston Grand Opera, while Keri Alkema and Latonia Moore alternate as Tosca under Ethan McSweeny's direction in a Seattle Opera production, which Speranza Scappucci will conduct.
The big news from the Fortas Chamber Concerts is that the Kennedy Center has snared the brilliant Dover Quartet for a three-year residency that will include performances on the KC Jukebox series and educational components. The focus of the season is heavy on quartets, including the Juilliard Quartet, the Takacs Quartet, and the Escher Quartet, along with the Tallis Scholars, Imani Winds, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and a four-handed concert by pianists Shai Wosner and Orion Weiss.
But the main thrust of the classical announcement, perhaps inevitably, is the potential of the Noseda tenure at an orchestra that hasn't really had this kind of fizz in its previous history. The season's primary goal, Ginstling says, "is to allow Gianandrea's musical personality to emerge." As for the rest of the center: Stay tuned for more season announcements in the months ahead.