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By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | May 9, 2013
Time was when American opera companies considered musicals as suspect artifacts from another planet, hardly worthy of serious attention -- not even on a par with the operettas those companies would occasionally stage when they needed a box office lift. Bit by bit, thinking has changed at a lot of places, and a welcome thing, too. Washington National Opera has enthusiastically embraced this broader view, offering an inspired staging of the path-breaking 1927 musical "Show Boat," a co-production with the Lyric Opera of Chicago (where it debuted last year)
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By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | May 9, 2014
With a riot of color onstage, Washington National Opera's presentation of "The Magic Flute" could not be more visually animated if it tried. There's a good deal to entertain the ears as well. This co-production with four other companies is, above all, a showcase for Japanese-born, Omaha-based artist Jun Kaneko. His set and costume design, a kind of pop art/classic Asian fusion, gives Mozart's opera a fresh flash of fantasy, not to mention whimsy. If there are times when the stylized look seems arbitrary (many of the projections suggest a digital Etch A Sketch)
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ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | September 8, 2013
Celebrated soprano Deborah Voigt has withdrawn from Washington National Opera's season-opening production of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" a week before the first performance. She will be replaced by Ireene Theorin on Sept. 15, 18, 21, and 24, and by Alwyn Mellor for the final performance Sept. 27. Here's Voigt's statement, released by WNO: "Returning to a role that I love but haven't sung in a number of seasons, and encountering its unique challenges, has caused me to reconsider keeping it in my repertoire,.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | April 23, 2014
UPDATE: Since I posted this story on Tuesday, word has come that the 'Toujours L'Amour' concert scheduled for Friday has been postponed because Stephen Costello has a 'bad flu.' Lyric Opera Baltimore artistic director James Harp says the event may be rescheduled for next season. Ticket-holders may exchange seats for a future performance or obtain refunds at point of purchase. Costello released a statement saying he was 'hugely looking forward to singing' and 'would like to extend my sincere apologies to everyone involved -- from the organisers and other performers, to those of you who have bought tickets in good faith.' When Stephen Costello made his Baltimore debut in 2008, he was an up-and-coming tenor.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | May 9, 2014
With a riot of color onstage, Washington National Opera's presentation of "The Magic Flute" could not be more visually animated if it tried. There's a good deal to entertain the ears as well. This co-production with four other companies is, above all, a showcase for Japanese-born, Omaha-based artist Jun Kaneko. His set and costume design, a kind of pop art/classic Asian fusion, gives Mozart's opera a fresh flash of fantasy, not to mention whimsy. If there are times when the stylized look seems arbitrary (many of the projections suggest a digital Etch A Sketch)
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | January 24, 2013
For most people, the attractions of Christmas do not include the possibility of children roasting over an open fire. But that has not kept Engelbert Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" from becoming a favorite opera at Christmastide. Based on a vivid tale by the Brothers Grimm and first performed Dec. 23, 1893, Humperdinck's most famous opera does, of course, feature lots of talk and images of sweets, notably gingerbread. So it's easy to make a seasonal tie-in, which is what Washington National Opera did over the weekend with a revival of its 2007 family-friendly production.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | October 14, 2013
If it is your destiny to be anywhere near the Kennedy Center during the next couple of weeks, check out Washington National Opera's new production of Verdi's "La forza del destino. " The force of it may surprise you -- and quite possibly thrill, confound, amuse or annoy you, too. You will certainly not be unaffected. I can well imagine opera fans raising any number of objections to director Francesca Zambello's concept (I've got one or two of them myself). But at Saturday night's opener, I found it easy to jump onto the eventful ride and let the qualms slip away, especially since the performance, featuring notable company debuts onstage and in the pit, was so electric.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | September 17, 2013
If we can believe the story -- and, really, what stories about this  megalomaniacal guy can't we believe? -- Wagner called "Tristan und Isolde" a "wonder," and declared: "I shall never be able to understand how I could have written anything like it. " There's still something dismaying about this transcendent fusion of music and drama, propelled by revolutionary harmony, heated by a rare, poetic urgency. There's something a little dismaying, too, about Washington National Opera's season-opening production of "Tristan," one of its greatest efforts the company has made in the past dozen or so years.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | March 24, 2014
Comic operas don't come more endearing than Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore"  ("The Elixir of Love"). The humor in this rustic tale, which involves a lovesick guy buying a potion (just plain old wine) from a snake-oil salesman to melt the heart of an indifferent woman, still has good miles left on it, as Washington National Opera's lively revival at the Kennedy Center reconfirms. But the tender side of the work is what ultimately counts the most, and that's what this production brings out with particular effectiveness.
FEATURES
By TIM SMITH and TIM SMITH,SUN MUSIC CRITIC | December 6, 2005
Washington National Opera announced yesterday a remarkably ambitious and enticing lineup for 2006-2007 that includes the North American premiere of Sophie's Choice by eminent British-born composer Nicholas Maw, conducted by Marin Alsop, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's soon-to-be music director. Sophie's Choice, based on the William Styron novel that inspired an acclaimed film, was premiered by London's Royal Opera in 2002. This powerful story about one woman's wrenching experience in the Holocaust was recently staged in Berlin and Vienna, Austria.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | March 24, 2014
Comic operas don't come more endearing than Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore"  ("The Elixir of Love"). The humor in this rustic tale, which involves a lovesick guy buying a potion (just plain old wine) from a snake-oil salesman to melt the heart of an indifferent woman, still has good miles left on it, as Washington National Opera's lively revival at the Kennedy Center reconfirms. But the tender side of the work is what ultimately counts the most, and that's what this production brings out with particular effectiveness.
NEWS
By Mike Giuliano | January 9, 2014
The Columbia Orchestra gets to do a lot of big pieces during the season, but it also has a free chamber music concert series that puts the focus on smaller pieces. Its next chamber concert is on Sunday, Jan. 19, at 3 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church in Columbia. Orchestral performers really appreciate such opportunities to explore the chamber music repertory. The upcoming concert features the Columbia Orchestra Piano Trio, composed of music director Jason Love on cello, concertmaster Brenda Anna on violin and Nancy Smith on piano.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | December 19, 2013
Folks convinced there's a "war on Christmas" should hurry to the Kennedy Center and catch a new opera that is as Christmas as all get out. We're talking Mary, Joseph and a no vacancy sign at the inn. We're talking a watchful angel and a bright star.  OK, so there's a unicorn, too. And a lion. And some occasionally cheeky contemporary humor. But, hey, the bottom line is still faith, hope and love, and you can't argue with that.  Washington National Opera, where cool things seem to happen more often since Francesca Zambello became artistic director, is presenting the world premiere of "The Lion, The Unicorn, and Me" this holiday season.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | November 18, 2013
The other day (OK, it was last week -- your humble correspondent has been way behind on everything lately), Washington National Opera presented the premieres of three 20-minute pieces that as part of its  second annual American Opera Initiative. I found the experience rewarding on many levels. Each of these mini-operas addressed an American theme (immigration provided a subject for two of the three). Each revealed a certain confidence, a sense of purpose, a determination to make a meaningful statement.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | October 14, 2013
The Wagner bicentennial, marked by opera houses and orchestras all over the place for 10 months now, is still going strong. The latest example in our region was the National Symphony Orchestra's presentation of Act 3 from "Parsifal" in concert form with a stellar ensemble of soloists and the first-rate Washington Chorus. I caught Friday night's performance at the Kennedy Center and would have gladly gone back the next night for a second dose of musical redemption, if it hadn't been for a new production at Washington National Opera . You do not have to buy into the religiosity of "Parsifal" to be moved by the story of the "fool" who discovers himself and his calling to save the Holy Grail.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | October 14, 2013
If it is your destiny to be anywhere near the Kennedy Center during the next couple of weeks, check out Washington National Opera's new production of Verdi's "La forza del destino. " The force of it may surprise you -- and quite possibly thrill, confound, amuse or annoy you, too. You will certainly not be unaffected. I can well imagine opera fans raising any number of objections to director Francesca Zambello's concept (I've got one or two of them myself). But at Saturday night's opener, I found it easy to jump onto the eventful ride and let the qualms slip away, especially since the performance, featuring notable company debuts onstage and in the pit, was so electric.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | September 16, 2010
Verdi's "A Masked Ball" makes an appropriately grand choice for Washington National Opera's season opener. It's a big-gesture work with terrific sweep, yet one with many a subtle musical and dramatic detail. The composer was forced by government censors to turn the opera's plot about the assassination of Sweden's King Gustavus III into an unlikely scenario set in Colonial Boston. But like some other companies these days, WNO restores the original Swedish setting. Although Salvatore Licitra doesn't always use his sizable tenor gracefully, his singing as Gustavus has a certain visceral appeal.
FEATURES
By Tim Smith and Tim Smith,sun music critic | January 11, 2007
Washington National Opera's 52nd season will include such favorites as Mozart's Don Giovanni and Puccini's La Boheme, along with the local premiere of a major contemporary opera and Placido Domingo's first U.S. appearance in a Handel work. Missing from the 2007-2008 lineup, announced yesterday at the Library of Congress, is Wagner's Siegfried, the third installment in the company's new staging of Wagner's Ring. But Domingo, the famed tenor and occasional conductor who is also the company's general director, said yesterday, "We are going to finish the Ring as we promised.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | October 10, 2013
The world has been awash in more Verdian sounds than usual this year, thanks to the preeminent Italian opera composer's bicentennial. Since Oct. 10 marks Verdi's actual 200th birthday (OK, it might have been the day before, but most sources go with the 10th), I figured I had to take extra note of the occasion. (The thumbnail photo for this blog post is the Verdi memorial on Broadway near Lincoln Center; I snapped it on Wednesday during a brief visit to New York.) Given all of the reasons why I love Verdi, I could bore you with a list of my Top 10 greatest this-and-that, those moments when his genius invariably blows me away with the curve of a melodic line, the shift of a harmony, the perfect coloring of orchestration.  But I decided to try to boil everything down to one example, one that combines the power of Verdi's music with an example of what can happen when an extra-inspired interpreter grabs hold of it. The piece is the Overture to "La forza del destino" (you can hear the whole opera starting this weekend in a new, bicentennial-saluting production from Washington National Opera)
ENTERTAINMENT
By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | September 18, 2013
The American Opera Initiative, a worthy project launched last year by Washington National Opera, will be back this season with more premieres. Three 20-minute operas on American subjects, including a work by the Baltimore team of composer Joshua Bornfield and librettist Caitlin Vincent, will get their first hearings on Nov. 13 at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater. Bornfield and Vincent recently collaborated on "Camelot Requiem," an effective opera commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination . For American Opera Initiative, the team is creating "Uncle Alex," an opera dealing with the immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in 1907 and "an unexpected act of heroism" that ensues.
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