Once Upon a Time I went to Wolf Trap with Erica

Murder & Other Operatic Mayhem

Our granddaughter Erica came down from Upstate New York to help us celebrate our anniversary weekend, 2005.

As we had done in 2004, we went to Wolf Trap, the National Park for the Performing Arts on our anniversary. We were fortunate in having a program of operatic highlights that we could all enjoy.

The Filene Center at Wolf Trap

As the program teaser put it,  "Villains and vixens, maidens and madmen—the heart of grand opera and the makings of a grand night of opera highlights! Join artists of our own Wolf Trap Opera for an evening of excerpts from Carmen, Aida, Rigoletto, and more!"

The weather was beautiful, and we started with a picnic in the area just outside the picture by the upper left building. 

After our picnic, we went to the Park Service lecture, which was an introduction to and background for the evening's performance, and then at 8:15 the performance began. 

We each left with a different tune humming in our minds. For me it was the lyrical "Tonight." Erica said it was the rousing "Ride of the Valkyries." And Brian went out humming "Les tringles des sistres."

VERDI: La forza del destino – Overture
VERDI: Il trovatore – Anvil Chorus 
VERDI: Il trovatore – Stride la vampa 
DONIZETTI: Lucia di Lammermoor – Sextet 
VERDI: Rigoletto – La donna é mobile 
VERDI: Rigoletto – Quartet 
PUCCINI: Madama Butterfly – Humming Chorus 
PUCCINI: Tosca – Te Deum 
WAGNER: Die Walküre – Ride of the Valkyries 
HUMPERDINCK: Hansel & Gretel – The Witch’s Ride 
HUMPERDINCK: Hansel & Gretel – Sandman & Evening Prayer 
SONDHEIM: Sweeney Todd – Not While I’m Around 
SULLIVAN: The Mikado – Behold the Lord High Executioner 
BIZET: Carmen – Les tringles des sistres 
BIZET: Carmen – Quintet 
VERDI: Aida – Gloria all'Egitto (Triumphal Scene) - Aida

BERNSTEIN: West Side Story - Tonight 



Monday, July 11, 2005; C05

'Murder & Other Operatic Mayhem'

The Wolf Trap Opera Company has recruited an extraordinary group of young singers this summer. That is hardly a news item; the company recruits an extraordinary group of young singers in its nationwide auditions every summer. But on Saturday night at the Filene Center, 10 members of the company made an especially strong impression.

They sang some of opera's most popular selections, inviting comparison with the greatest stars, past and present, and they emerged with honor. Sharing in the acclaim were the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington Chorus, brilliantly conducted by Emile de Cou.

The program, titled "Murder & Other Operatic Mayhem," opened with Verdi's overture to "La Forza del Destino," and de Cou brought out all its intense drama. The final work was a virtuoso showcase for chorus and orchestra, the triumphal scene from "Aida," performed with high impact. But solo and ensemble singing were the main events and they were handled gloriously. The company's director, Kim Pensinger Witman, gave a witty and informative introduction to each selection. The end of Act 1 in "Tosca," she said, is "one of the best arguments for the separation of church and state." Then it was performed, with the chorus singing a triumphant "Te Deum" while baritone Weston Hunt sang of his lust for Tosca.

Other high points included Dimitri Pittas's "La Donna e Mobile," Lord High Executioner Jason Ferrante's "little list" (which included talk show hosts, senators and "Hillary, but not until '08"), "Not While I'm Around" from "Sweeney Todd," performed by Javier Abreu and Audrey Babcock, and the Sandman's song and evening prayer from "Hansel and Gretel," sung by Evelyn Pollock, Maureen McKay and Kate Lindsey. Elegant ensemble singing was also part of the program, with the quartet from "Rigoletto," the quintet from "Carmen" and the sextet from "Lucia di Lammermoor."

-- Joseph McLellan