All the county's a stage for the arts

May 13, 2007|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

Anne Arundel County offers a performing arts array to compete with nearby Washington and Baltimore - neighbors possessing renowned symphony orchestras, theaters and opera companies.

The county's cultural center is Annapolis, with the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts as its hub, a recycled high school where four resident arts groups converge: a symphony orchestra, chorale, opera and ballet company.

Most offer free pre-performance lectures along with innovative programming in a homelike atmosphere where reasonably priced light fare can be found at the cozy basement cafe.

FOR THE RECORD - In Sunday's Anne Arundel Hometown Guide, the name of Naval Academy theater director Christy Stanlake was misspelled. The Sun regrets the error.

Maryland Hall's crown jewel is the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, completing its third season under Music Director Jose-Luis Novo.

"ASO is doing well, branching out into regional territory like Strathmore Hall, Chesapeake Arts Center and South County," ASO President R. Lee Streby said. "We've developed the largest corporate relationship in our history with the new three-year sponsorship by Lexus. Individual giving has continued to rise with our budget and ticket sales meeting our goals. These support activities reflect the artistic progress of the orchestra under Maestro Novo; people are enjoying his concerts and his programming."

Of arts in the county, Streby said, "Everyone is working hard to take their work to a higher level of artistry, professionalism and polish. Bay Theatre has taken the community by storm in only a few seasons. The Annapolis Chorale is doing diverse work, gaining support and meeting the needs of people who want to sing and learn more about music.

"The opera is casting unbelievable young singers in their productions. The Chesapeake Arts Center has continued to develop well under solid leadership there. It's a positive vibe in the community, but yet it is not without challenges. There are still more empty seats at performances than there should be, and the struggle with so many offerings competing for time and attention," Streby said.

"We all could use more editorial help from the media. Maybe the arts should have a daily news section just like sports, and we could fill it."

ASO's 2007-2008 season begins Sept. 28-29 with a Beethoven, Brahms and Bartok concert featuring violinist Soovin Kim.

Nov. 9-10 brings Grieg, Dvorak and a world premiere of a Charter 300 finalist composer's work with pianist Jon Nakamatsu. Cellist Julie Albers will perform Elgar's Cello Concerto with music by Schumann and another Charter 300 finalist composer's work Feb. 15-16.

Works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff and Strauss with pianist Orli Shaham and a premier of another Charter 300 finalist composer's work will be performed March 21-22.

The classic series with all concerts conducted by Maestro Novo closes May 2-3 with Audrey Luna as soprano in Rodrigo's Four Madrigals of Love in addition to Smetana's The Bartered Bride Overture and Mahler's Symphony No. 4.

ASO's Pop Series will feature the Broadway Tenors on Dec. 14 and a Gershwin concert April 11. A family concert is set for Jan. 12.

Information: call 410-269-1132 or visit www.annapolissymphonyor chestra.com.

Completing her fourth season, Ballet Theatre of Maryland Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto continues to challenge her dancers and choreograph to their strengths.

BTM's 2007-2008 season will open Oct. 19-20 with the return of Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Performances of The Nutcracker are scheduled for Dec. 8, 9 and 16. Director's Choice on Feb. 23-24 will feature works from women composers and Cuatto's new work in honor of the 300th anniversary of Annapolis.

BTM's first family series will be at the Boys and Girls Club Center in Annapolis in October, December and April. BTM will offer the world premier of a specially choreographed Celtic Book of Days from Samhain (Nov. 1) through January at the Performing Arts Association of Linthicum series at Chesapeake Arts Center.

"I'm pleased to announce the first-ever corporate sponsorship for Ballet Theatre of Maryland with the awarding of a three-year sponsorship by Merrill Lynch, one of the world's leading wealth management, capital markets, and advisory companies," Cuatto said last month. "As partners, Merrill Lynch and Ballet Theatre of Maryland are dedicated to keeping the art of dance alive and well in Maryland. We look forward to working with Merrill Lynch beginning immediately."

Information: 410-263-8289.

Maryland Hall resident Annapolis Opera comes off a 34th season that featured Barber of Seville with a stellar young cast that included critically acclaimed young diva Carla Dirlikov and Annapolis Symphony Orchestra members led by Musical Director Ronald J. Gretz.

Although an Opera spokesman said next season has not been finalized, it is likely to include a fundraiser opener in October followed by "Mozart by Candlelight" in December, the annual vocal competition in February, with a strong possibility of Bizet's Carmen being the company's fully staged opera in March.

A Children's Opera will probably be presented in April and "Pasta and Puccini Ancora" in May.

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