Very Verdi: Wolf Trap Opera's 2013 season

Rossini, recitals, young people's events also on tap. Photo: Teddy Wolff

Vienna, VA, February 10, 2013 — The Wolf Trap Opera Company (WTOC) has announced its upcoming 2013 summer season as well as its line-up of Filene Young Artists and Studio Artists. Recitals, concerts, and fully staged operas will be performed at both The Barns and the Filene Center this year, and an additional recital will be performed at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.

In a recent event for the press and company supporters, Wolf Trap Opera Director Kim Pensinger Witman gave a lively presentation, complete with slides and videos, detailing her team’s most recent, exhaustive cross-country audition tour during which this year’s roster of young singers was augmented and finalized. She also explained WTOC’s unusual opera selection process, whereby the gradual selection of vocalists ultimately determines which operas will actually get staged in each upcoming season.

Her presentation was ably assisted by three of this season’s participating baritones, Nicholas Pallesen, Steven LaBrie, and Norman Garrett who sang famous arias from three different operas for the audience.

Kim Witman details WTOC’s latest cross-country trek in search of operatic excellence at Wolf Trap’s educational facility and offices, located behind The Barns. (All photos, credit: Teddy Wolff)

Operas and Recitals

The operatic “winners” this season include three new productions, two of which, fortuitously, feature works by Giuseppe Verdi honoring the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Verdi’s beloved La traviata will be performed one time only on July 19 at the Filene Center. This new, full production will utilize video-projected sets along with physical props, all specially designed to for this performance space. It’s worth noting that the costs of this production were generously underwritten by Wolf Trap Foundation Board member Dan D’Aniello and his wife, Gayle, along with notable contributions from loyal WTOC supporters.

WTOC’s remaining Verdi production, Falstaff (August 9, 11, 14, and 17), as well as the company’s third 2013 production, Rossini’s The Journey to Reims (June 21, 23, and 29) will be performed at The Barns. Falstaff, Verdi’s final grand opera will be adapted to The Barns’ smaller stage and orchestra pit, with orchestral parts reduced by composer Jonathan Dove to deliver a remarkably comparable orchestral richness.

WTOC Filene Young Artist baritone Steven LaBrie dazzles the audience with a performance of Figaro’s beloved show-stopper from Rossini’s ‘Barber of Seville.’ He’s accompanies by Kim Witman.

Rossini’s once neglected Reims is not so much an opera than it is a set of spectacular party pieces geared to show off each singer’s brilliance and expertise. That’s at least in part why it’s been showing up more on stages in recent decades.

In addition to this year’s operas, the Filene Young Artists will perform in three different recitals: “Wonders To Wander To: Songs and Stories of Faraway Lands,” with witty insights and snappy patter from popular pianist and vocal coach Steven Blier who will accompany the singers; “Aria Jukebox,” a clever, interactive concert during which audience members themselves will get to choose, from an intriguing list of possibilities, the arias and/or duets they’ll actually hear performed during the evening; and “Vocal Colors,” a recital being offered at the Phillips Collection that links vocal music with the visual arts. (Dates and details for these performances below.)

For a more detailed explanation of what WTOC is all about, check out their video which follows:

Tickets for WTOC’s regular opera performances and recitals go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on March 16. (Tickets will be made available to Wolf Trap members earlier, on February 25.) Tickets can be purchased online at, by calling 1(877) WOLFTRAP or by dropping in to the Wolf Trap Box Office at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts at 1551 Trap Road, Vienna, Virginia. For more information, call Wolf Trap at (703) 255-1868.

For the younger set…

As they say on TV, “But wait! There’s more!

While opera fans can enjoy predictably fine performances by WTOC today, where will opera find the audiences of tomorrow, given that public schools, by and large, no longer bother much with general music education? WTOC is offering two young people’s programs to help remedy that problem while offering younger audiences a lot of fun in the process.

For younger kids, WTOC’s “Instant Opera!” program will return to the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods at Wolf Trap on July 11 and 12. WTOC’s Young Artists will engage with the audience and improvise songs and scenes tossed at them via listeners’ “Mad Libs.” Tickets to this event will be available beginning on May 4.

For teens and tweens, WTOC will offer a promising new project, “Opera Learners Permit.” It’s an evening of opera featuring music from The Journey to Reims that’s calibrated to engage middle- and high-school students in their own musical journey. Registration for this program will start in April. Wolf Trap notes that “if you want to be notified personally, let us know at”.

 Opera at the Filene Center: Cast, Crew, Dates, Times, Links

WTOC has provided us with the following details on each of this summer’s regular season performances. Click the links for details:

The Journey to Reims

Il viaggio a Reims at The Barns at Wolf Trap

Friday, June 21, 8 p.m.; Sunday, June 23, 3 p.m.; Saturday, June 29, 7 p.m.

Rossini’s comedy The Journey to Reims features a group of international travelers who converge on one tiny spa hotel en route to the coronation of Charles X. This new production is designed and built specifically for The Barns and features a large ensemble cast. New production performed in Italian with English supertitles.

Conductor – Gary Thor Wedow
Director – David Gately
Scenic Design – Evan Adamson
Costume Design – Paul Carey
Lighting Design – Robert H. Grimes

Corinna – Andrea Carroll
Madame Cortese – Kiri Deonarine
La Contessa di Folleville – Ying Fang
La Marchesa Melibea – Maya Lahyani
Il Conte di Libenskof – Juan José de Léon
Il Cavaliere Belfiore – Brenton Ryan
Don Alvaro – Steven LaBrie
Dr. Prudenzio – Norman Garrett
Lord Sidney – Brandon Cedel
Don Profondo – Ryan Speedo Green
Il Barone di Trombonok – Aaron Sorensen
Delia – Tracy Cox
Maddalena – Shannon Jennings
Modestina – Suzanne Hendrix
Zelfirino – Benjamin Bliss
Luigino – Brian Yeakley
Antonio – Ben Edquist

Ensemble – Studio Artists

La traviata at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Friday, July 19, 8:15 p.m.

One of the world’s most beloved and frequently performed operas will be presented at the Filene Center in a new production featuring a video projection-based scenic design.  New production performed in Italian with English supertitles.

Conductor – Grant Gershon
Director – José Maria Condemi
Projections Design – Aaron Rhyne
Costume Design – TBD
Lighting Design – Mark Stanley

Violetta Valéry – Corinne Winters
Alfredo Germont – Benjamin Bliss
Giorgio Germont – Nicholas Pallesen


Annina – Courtney Johnson
Flora Bervoix – Alexandra Rodrick
Gastone – Miles Mykkanen
Giuseppe – Brandon Russell
Baron Douphol – Harry Greenleaf
Marquis d’Obigny – Brian Vu
Doctor Grenville – Nicholas Brownlee

Opera at the barns:

Falstaff at The Barns at Wolf Trap

Friday, August 9, 8 p.m.; Sunday, August 11, 3 p.m.; Wednesday, August 14, 8 p.m.; and Saturday, August 17, 7 p.m.

Verdi only wrote two comedies: one at the beginning of his career (King for a Day, seen at The Barns in 2008), and this one, written at the very end of his illustrious life. Falstaff will be performed in the soloistic orchestral reduction created by composer Jonathan Dove. New production performed in Italian with English supertitles.

Conductor – Dean Williamson
Director – Tomer Zvulun
Scenic Design – Erhard Rom
Costume Design – Vita Tzykun
Lighting Design – Robert H. Grimes

Sir John Falstaff – Craig Colclough
Alice Ford – Tracy Cox
Nannetta – Mireille Asselin
Meg Page – Carolyn Sproule
Dame Quickly – Suzanne Hendrix
Fenton – Matthew Grills
Dr. Caius – Juan José de Léon
Bardolfo – Brenton Ryan
Ford –  Norman Garrett
Pistola – Aaron Sorensen

Ensemble – Studio Artists


Concert & Recital:

Wonders To Wander To Songs and Stories of Faraway Lands

Recital with Steven Blier at The Barns at Wolf Trap

Saturday, July 6, 3 p.m.; Sunday, July 7, 3 p.m.

Steven Blier and four Filene Young Artists will present musical fables by Porter, Bolcom, Coward, Schumann and others, performed in the round at The Barns in an intimate seating arrangement created specifically for this recital.

Steven Blier, pianist & host Mireille Asselin, soprano Carolyn Sproule, mezzo-soprano Brenton Ryan, tenor Craig Colclough, bass-baritone 

Aria Jukebox at The Barns at Wolf Trap

Sunday, July 14, 3 p.m.
The artists sing favorite opera highlights, chosen by the audience before the performance.

Kim Pensinger Witman, pianist with the entire roster of Filene Young Artists 

Vocal Colors at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
July 25, 6:30 p.m.
Filene Young Artists craft a concert inspired by visual art from The Phillips Collection. The performance takes place in the Music Room and features projected images of the paintings.

Andrea Carroll, soprano Maya Lahyani, mezzo-soprano Brenton Ryan, tenor Steven LaBrie, baritone


Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business.

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Terry Ponick

Now writing on investing, politics, music, and theater for the Washington Times Communities, Terry was the longtime music and culture critic for the Washington Times (1994-2009). 

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