Two Shows at Wolf Trap

For both of the past two weekends, mom and I have gone to Wolf Trap for some classical music.  The first weekend, we went to the Barnes to watch the obscure 18th century comic opera L’Opera Seria, which was about a company trying to put on a serious opera that parodied much of the conventions of the genre.  Then this last Saturday night, we went to the Filene Center to see the National Symphony Orchestra play a concert, which followed a symphony from Sergei Prokofiev and a suite by Maurice Ravel with the main event: Stravinsky’s The Firebird, accompanied by a show by the South African  Handspring Puppet Company telling through puppetry and dance the history of their country over the last twenty years.

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Mary Chapin Carpenter at Wolf Trap

Went to see the Mary Chapin Carpenter concert at Wolf Trap last night, where she was joined by composer/arranger Vince Mendoza and the National Symphony Orchestra to perform his new orchestral arrangements of a number of her old songs, which are apparently also on her new album Songs from the Movie.  So I suppose in retrospect it was advertisement for the album, but as well as working, it provided for a wonderful night of music.  The orchestral arrangements took the songs, some of which had been great already, and gave them a whole new dimension and beauty.  I’m was actually drowsy during the first half, but even half-asleep I was able to recognize the quality of what I was listening to.  They did mostly use her ballads, as more suited to such treatment, but for an encore she did one of her faster songs the same way, and it worked really well on that too.

The only real problem with the concert, I suppose, was that the orchestra kind of out-performed her.  They actually opened the concert before she came out by playing a suite from To Kill a Mockingbird, also arranged by Mendoza, which gave us a taste of both his ability and their own, and from there they just kept being flawless.  She, for all her skill, simply couldn’t match them.  Even more than possibly buying her album, I want to go see them perform somewhere.  I wonder if they’re appearing at Wolf Trap again this summer….

Wolf Trap Opera: Sweeney Todd

Wolf Trap Opera continued its annual summer showcase of young singers Friday night with a semi-staged performance of Sweeney Todd at Wolf Trap’s main stage, on an evening where the heat was bad enough and humidity worse, and rain threatened, but didn’t actually fall.  But perhaps they should have held it in the Barns; it turns out the mental intimacy of the musical doesn’t carry well towards the back, and the sound problems at the beginning didn’t help.  In fact, hearing and understanding the choruses for must of the show was a problem, though the singers being showcased in the main roles mostly had voices that carried well enough.  But not everything could carry.  Even from a distance, Anthony Micheal McGee’s Todd invoked the most pathos I’ve seen out of the three Sweeney Todds I’ve seen and remembered so far(which of course includes Johnny Depp), but the intensity of his acting couldn’t help but be diluted by the set-up.  Margaret Gawrysiak also stood out as Mrs. Lovett; she had presence enough to reach the rafters.

I’ve since read the heat was so bad in fact they were worried about the sound system and the microphones malfunctioning because of the singers sweating so much, and that everyone was supplied with Gatorade(though the bottles were visible under the red chairs that were set up for the scene changes) and wore cold gel packs.  But I have to give them credit; they made it absorbing enough that eventually I stopped noticing the heat(the sun going down helped too though).  In fact, the audience gave the show a huge standing ovation.