Arts Desk

Also Coming to the Kennedy Center: Lang Lang, Don Giovanni, and “Nordic Cool”

The Kennedy Center unveiled its 2012-2013 season today. The Book of Mormon is probably the most eagerly anticipated production—perhaps the timing of its D.C. debut is a harbinger for a President Romney?—but in terms of classical music, there are some other, non-Mormon performances worth considering.

Lang Lang, aka China’s Liberace or That Guy With the Hair, has a two-week residency with the National Symphony Orchestra in November. The ostentatious pianist has been dazzling audiences—quite literally, with his outfits—as much as annoying critics—New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini famously walked out of one of his performances in 2003—for years before he was introduced to most Americans at the Beijing Olympics. He’s been toning down the stage theatrics a bit recently, in a bid to be seen as a real classical artist and not just pop star. So the NSO likely hopes his residency will be taken as evidence of Lang Lang’s rep becoming more serious rather than NSO’s becoming less so. The venerable Emmanuel Ax and opinionated Jeremy Denk round out a slew of high-profile pianists who will pass through the marble shoebox. On the pops side, Steve Reineke will conduct The Wizard and I, Roberta Flack, and Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane.

2013’s international theme is “Nordic Cool”—music and artists from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. Concerts include Kennedy Center Chamber Players performing works by Carl Nielsen, and an all Finnish program by the NSO doing Magnus Lindberg and that old drunk, Jean Sibelius. Soloists include Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, not to be confused with German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, who will also perform next season, along with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, and Trio con Brio Copenhagen. “Nordic Cool” is the latest in a series of mostly annual international themes chosen by the Kennedy Center’s Department of International Programs and President Michael Kaiser. Past years saw “Maximum India” (2011), “Arabesque” (2009), “Japan! Culture + Hyperculture” (2008), “Festival of China” (2005), “Festival of France” (2004), [Latin] “AmericArtes” (2001 – 2004), and “African Odyssey” (1997 – 2000). In comparison, 2012’s theme is pretty lame: “Music of Budapest, Prague, and Vienna.” Because, you know, we don’t normally get to hear much stuff by Mozart.

Over at the Washington National Opera, newly named “artistic advisor” Francesca Zambello is warming up for her long-awaited staging of Wagner’s complete Ring cycle with…Show Boat. That’s right, the Oscar Hammerstein musical. Hey whatever, good for them, it will probably be more fun than Götterdämmerung. As for actual operas, the highlight is Don Giovanni starring Ildar Abdrazakov and Barbara Frittoli. Other notable productions include Anna Bolena in the fall and Manon Lescaut in the spring. WNO has a season “theme,” as well, and it's even lamer than “Music of Central Europe”: “A Season of Divas.” Guess that means we’ll be seeing a lot of...female opera singers.

As for theater, jazz, and dance, I’ll leave that up to my knowledgeable City Paper colleagues. In the meantime, I’d sign up for Book of Mormon ticket announcements now.

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