Washington has interesting music options

Performances: The Washington Opera's production of Robert Ward's `The Crucible' and a National Symphony Orchestra pops concert look promising.

January 05, 1999|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

If the Baltimore Symphony's concerts Thursday, Friday and Saturday, featuring violinist Elmar Oliveira and guest conductor George Pehlivanian, do not completely sate listeners' hunger for classical music this week, Washington looks like a most attractive destination.

The Washington Opera's recently opened production of Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio" happens to be a dud -- and it's sold out anyway. But plenty of seats are available for the company's other current production -- Robert Ward's 1962 Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Crucible" -- and the word of mouth about it is that it's terrific.

Ward's opera is, of course, based on Arthur Miller's play of the same name about the notorious witch trials in 17th-century Salem, Mass. Like the play, the opera is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by fear and hysteria.

Unlike much of the music written in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Ward's "Crucible" is a tuneful work, replete with exuberant hymn-like choruses and evocations of American folk melodies.

Adding interest to the prospect of the Washington Opera's "Crucible" is that it has been staged by Bruce Beresford, the Australian director responsible for some of the best films of the last 20 years, including "Breaker Morant," "Tender Mercies," "The Apostle" and the Academy Award-winning "Driving Miss Daisy."

Performances of "The Crucible" take place Jan. 6, 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 23, 25, 28 and 30. For tickets and information, call 1-800-876-7372.

Also of interest in Washington this week is a National Symphony Orchestra pops concert to be conducted by the NSO's music director, Leonard Slatkin. Music directors of important orchestras do not typically conduct pops concerts, but the program for Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (8: 30 p.m.) is rather special: It consists entirely of film music by Erich Korngold, Leonard Bernstein, Henry Mancini and John Williams.

This happens to be terrific music, and Slatkin happens to be a Hollywood brat, whose childhood was spent around the sets where his violinist father and cellist mother were among the film industry's most important studio musicians. Tickets are $13-$65; call 800-444-1324.

Pub Date: 1/05/99

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