Annapolis, take a Baltimore cue

Arts: The symphony, opera and chorale are thriving, but could do even better by stealing a few pages from its northern neighbor's songbook.

January 07, 1999|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

This is the start of my third year of writing about entertainment in Anne Arundel County, where I continue to be amazed at the extent and caliber of the cultural wealth.

Although I subscribe to the Baltimore Symphony, Baltimore Opera and Theatre Hopkins, my cultural life is centered at that shining testament to recycling, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

The former Annapolis High School is the home of the Annapolis Symphony, the Annapolis Opera, Ballet Theatre of Annapolis and the Annapolis Chorale. They are all thriving, but some of them might benefit by emulating their Baltimore counterparts.

The Annapolis Symphony could adopt the Baltimore Symphony's Saturday morning "Casual Concerts." Orchestras across the country imitate this series begun in Baltimore by David Zinman, so why not Annapolis?

The orchestra could attract a new audience to these abbreviated versions of the evening concerts. Music director Leslie B. Dunner has the charm, enthusiasm, and informality to cheerfully enlighten the more casual concert-goer.

The Annapolis Opera Company has a minuscule budget compared to Baltimore Opera's, and yet it has managed to mount a number of memorable performances. Its "Madama Butterfly," directed by Ronald Gretz in the fall of 1996, was a triumph in terms of singing and sensitive staging. This season Gretz directed a "Marriage of Figaro" that was an even greater triumph. Realizing what this company can do makes me wish for two full-scale operas each season.

President Anna Marie Darlington-Gilmour wants to produce operas in the original language. Super-titles would allow the audience to experience all the subtleties of the foreign language libretto. Baltimore Opera has had super-titles for years, so why can't an angel be found to install such equipment at Maryland Hall?

In Ballet Theatre of Annapolis, Anne Arundel County has a resident dance company, which does not exist in Baltimore. Baltimore might borrow from the success of this fine local company and try to establish its own ballet.

I'd like to see The Annapolis Chorale expand its repertoire to include the work the Baltimore Symphony Chorus delivered some seasons ago -- Giacomo Puccini's "Messa di Gloria." The piece was written when the composer was a mere 20 years old and already boldly dramatic.

Having thrilled to the chorale's singing of the Verdi Requiem, which is dramatically operatic, and its sublime rendition of Henry Gorecki's "Totus Tuus," it would be good to hear the chorale perform Puccini's intensely religious and operatic mass.

Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts is a testament to the vision and dedication of its builders and shapers. All who have contributed should take pride in their accomplishment and accept the gratitude of the audiences.

A year ago, at the opening celebration of Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, 1,000 people packed the auditorium. I wish north county residents as much success in the former Brooklyn Park High School as Annapolis has enjoyed.

If they pursue the dream in north county, Anne Arundel will become a cultural mecca with arts centers north and south dedicated to the enrichment of all its citizens.

Pub Date: 1/07/99

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