Julian Wachner, music director of the Washington Chorus, had such positive response from his earlier concerts focused on the "essential" Puccini and Rachmaninoff that he has followed them up with a look at "The Essential Wagner." During World War II, the composer fell into disfavor in the United States because his music was used by the Nazis to stir up crowds, but he is once again a darling of American opera and the concert hall.
"Bernstein had a lot to do with his acceptance," Wachner said. "Because his background as an American Jew did not deter his love for Wagner, he was able to regenerate audience admiration for one of the great men of music. Wagner is the last stop before you get to atonality. His harmonies, orchestration and cinemascopic imagination are not surpassed. We all think of Wagner as big and bombastic, but his music covers the full spectrum. The program closes with a semistaged 'Die Meistersinger' to give an extra flair."
The concert brings together choral highlights and arias from "The Flying Dutchman," "Tannhauser," "Tristan und Isolde," "Lohengrin" "Die Walkure" and "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg." Tickets for the latter are coveted every summer for performances in Nuremberg, Germany. The soloists Wachner has chosen for this presentation are soprano Othalie Graham, tenor Issachah Savage and baritone Brent Stater. All come from the Evelyn and Thomas Stewart Emerging Singers Program, a collaboration with the Wagner Society.
|The Washington Chorus presents 'The Essential Wagner'|
|Where: Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW|
|When: 5 p.m. Sunday|
|Info: $15 to $65; 202-467-4600; thewashingtonchorus.org|
Spectacular as the "Essential Wagner" concert promises to be, it is not the season finale for TWC. That occurs in late June, when Wachner conducts the world premiere of the fully completed score of Paola Prestini's folk opera "Oceanic Verses" at the Kennedy Center. The Carnegie Hall commission is a multimedia production with projections and theatrical lighting. The composer examines three aspects of a woman: the martyr, the nurturer and the ruler, or the virgin, mother and queen as they are regarded in her native Italy. Prestini incorporates songs dating back to 3000 B.C., folk melodies she recorded while visiting her land and others she has written.
"After the Kennedy Center concert, we'll perform 'Oceanic Verses' at the River to River Festival in New York," Wachner said. "It's based on Italian folk legends that go back and forth between early people about ghost sailors and other very Mediterranean traditions. Wonderful artists have contributed to the accompanying film, so it promises to be an exciting experience for both audiences."