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Emil de Cou conducts and hosts the NSO@Wolf Trap

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

Every summer, audiences gravitate to the welcoming breezes of Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts and the exciting potpourri of musical styles that promise something for everyone. Some of the most popular shows are performed by the National Symphony Orchestra featuring guest artists and hosted by festival Conductor Emil de Cou. A former associate conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, he is the music director and principal conductor of Pacific Northwest Ballet. Next week, he arrives at Wolf Trap in time to host the sing-along version of the movie "Grease."

"The NSO@Wolf Trap season opens on June 26 with the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration, our biggest seller so far," de Cou said. "Warren Haynes, rock and blues guitarist, will collaborate with us on Garcia's standards. That show is followed by the BBC 'Earth's Frozen Planet in Concert' for the entire family. George Fenton conducts his original score as the audience enjoys watching penguins, whales and other creatures in the Arctic and Antarctic wilderness on the giant screens.

"Two weeks later, we'll join forces with the Choral Arts Society and Wolf Trap Opera Company soloists for Carl Orff's choral masterpiece, 'Carmina Burana.' The singers have been working with Kim Witman, the WTOC director, so I know they'll be well prepared when I first rehearse with them. The program closes with Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition,' but instead of Ravel's familiar orchestration, we'll use a wonderful Stokowski transcription, which makes for great pairing with the Orff."

Although de Cou never met the late Dave Brubeck, he will long remember hearing the jazz pianist perform at Washington National Cathedral several years ago. Now, he is honored to conduct "Ansel Adams: America," composed by Brubeck and his son Chris to accompany more than 100 photographs by Adams. The program also includes music from the movie "Lincoln" by John Williams and two works by Aaron Copland: "Fanfare for the Common Man" and "A Lincoln Portrait." It closes with George Gershwin's "An American in Paris," one of Brubeck's favorite numbers.

If you go
NSO@Wolf Trap Festival
» Where: Wolf Trap's Filene Center, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna
» When: June 26 through Aug. 3
» Info: $35 to $55 in-house, $25 lawn; 877-965-3872; wolftrap.org

De Cou will be on hand to host four diverse NSO concerts he does not conduct. The first is "Video Games Live: Bonus Round." This all-new show with live accompaniment features cutting-edge visuals on the huge screens in-house and on the lawn. Later on, Emmy-award winner George Daugherty returns with his newest creation, "Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II." Filled with fun, laughter and beautiful music as the "Wascally Wabbit" romps across the great screens, the show is a glorious return to childhood for all ages. In fact, de Cou recalls that Bugs Bunny cartoons were his introduction to classical music.

NSO Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke revisits some of Broadway's favorite musicals in "Wicked Divas," an evening of showstoppers from "Phantom of the Opera," "Gypsy," "Chicago," "Titanic," "Wicked" and other hits performed by Julia Murney and Stephanie J. Block.

The NSO bids farewell to Wolf Trap for the summer with the blockbuster film "Singin' in the Rain" conducted by de Cou.

"This is the original score played by the MGM studio orchestra," he said. "To prepare it for us, the orchestration was taken off the sound track. You'll hear Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds singing and dancing as they did on the screen, but they will be accompanied by the NSO. Just last week I heard this version in Orange County, the first time it was done in the U.S. Ours will be the first East Coast performance. The plot written in 1952 is a spoof on silent films and all but one or two of the songs come from that era. This will be a nostalgic evening for everyone."

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