WPAS is giving up a little, gaining a lot

March 17, 2004|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The Washington Performing Arts Society, the area's premier presenter of classical, dance, jazz and world-music events, will do some major expansion - and a little contraction - for the 2004-2005 season.

With the opening of the Music Center at Strathmore, WPAS will add one more venue to a list that already includes the Kennedy Center, George Washington University and DAR Constitution Hall. This addition will help boost the annual budget from $7.2 million to $8.1 million.

The Strathmore season, beginning February 2005, offers such stellar artists as violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Evgeny Kissin, the Emerson String Quartet and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with soprano Barbara Bonney. Fiddler Mark O'Connor, jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, the Mingus Big Band and others will also appear at Strathmore.

The Kennedy Center lineup promises the kind of musicians that have kept the WPAS going strong for almost 40 years: sopranos Renee Fleming (in recital) and Kathleen Battle (in her "So Many Stars" program with pianist Cyrus Chestnut and others); pianists Maurizio Pollini and Lang Lang; violinist Gil Shaham.

A hallmark of WPAS seasons - visits by great orchestras - will be trimmed back next season because of mounting costs. Even with strong ticket sales, the organization has been losing too much money on orchestras. So there will only be five, down from eight this season (even more in years past).

But these five present a strong draw: the Chicago Symphony with Daniel Barenboim conducting Mahler's Ninth; Philadelphia Orchestra with conductor Christoph Eschenbach and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig in an all-Brahms program led by Herbert Blomstedt; the Prague Symphony Orchestra playing Dvorak led by Serge Baudo; the Oslo Philharmonic with conductor Andre Previn and noted mezzo Denyce Graves.

Also on tap next season: cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Project; a WPAS-commissioned work by Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra; Masters of Persian Music; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and the National Acrobats of Taiwan.

For more information on the WPAS' 66-event 2004-2005 season, call 202-785-WPAS or visit www.wpas.org.

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