Wolf Trap announces 2010-11 season
By Chris Richards
Big stars under the stars. For years, that's been the reliable -- and often predictable -- approach that Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts has taken to its pop music programming.
This summer will be no exception. The sprawling outdoor venue in Fairfax County will announce its complete summer season Monday, boasting return performances from Aretha Franklin, the Beach Boys, Tony Bennett and many others -- along with a number of dance, classical and theater offerings. This season's overall show count is up to a whopping 107. (Let's hope the temperatures don't climb that high.)
(Season highlights and the complete 2010-11 schedule after the jump.)
Curious pop fans will want to arrive at Wolf Trap shows early -- many of the season's most interesting performers appear on the underbill. Texas singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham, whose single "The Weary Kind" was made famous in the film "Crazy Heart" starring Oscar winner Jeff Bridges, is set to open for country crooner Lyle Lovett on Aug. 17. John Hiatt is another potential show-stealer. The rock maverick will perform tunes from his lauded new album, "The Open Road," when he warms up for the Levon Helm Band on July 21. And while country icon Willie Nelson is set to headline Wolf Trap on Aug. 3, his son Lukas Nelson will open for B.B. King on July 18. Nelson-the-younger may qualify as country music royalty, but he's proving to be a respectable blues guitarist in his own right.
There are a handful of first-timers performing, too, including '90s soft-rock survivors Counting Crows and Rodrigo y Gabriela, a Mexican duo known for their agile guitar work. Other season highlights run the pop spectrum: Jeff Beck, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Four Tops and the Temptations, the B-52s, Backstreet Boys, Julio Iglesias, Harry Connick Jr., Anita Baker, Beres Hammond, Jackson Browne and Sheryl Crow.
Wolf Trap's dance offerings have dropped to two: the final, final, this-time-we-mean-it "Riverdance" farewell tour, June 2-6, and the eagerly anticipated Paul Taylor Dance Company on July 20. The latter engagement will feature an as-yet-unnamed work commissioned by the Wolf Trap Foundation in honor of Taylor's 80th birthday, which will fall just nine days after the world premiere. Also on that program will be Taylor's "Beloved Renegade," inspired by Walt Whitman's verse, and "Also Playing," a vaudevillian romp featuring misfits and matadors, both created last year.
"I'm a huge dance fan," said Wolf Trap President Terrence D. Jones. "I wish we had more this season, but hopefully it'll be stronger next season." Jones said he had hoped to bring in Ballet West and another contemporary group this summer, but both backed out too late to find replacements.
For classical music, "Wolf Trap" has become largely synonymous with "Theme Park." This season will offer orchestral evenings devoted to James Bond, Bugs Bunny and the video game Final Fantasy.
There are also musicals, including a Rodgers and Hammerstein program, and an evening with Idina Menzel offering selections from "Rent" and "Wicked." But the National Symphony Orchestra, under associate conductor Emil de Cou, will offer more canonical fare. Joshua Bell returns to play the Bruch "Scottish" Fantasy that he was originally scheduled to perform the last time he appeared with the orchestra in November. There's also an evening of different musical takes on "Romeo and Juliet," from Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky to Gounod to "West Side Story." And there is that old summer-concert standby: Holst's "The Planets," with NASA images projected on a screen behind the stage. We haven't seen this in Washington for, well, several months.
Over at the Barns, the Wolf Trap Opera continues its laudable work presenting young artists, offering Mozart's "Zaide" (an early-ish and unfinished opera that seems to be performed with increasing frequency, perhaps due to the market's saturation with other Mozart works); Rossini's operatically droll "The Turk in Italy"; and Britten's "Midsummer Night's Dream," as well as two recitals by the New York Festival of Song led by the endlessly inventive Steven Blier. On the lighter side -- light opera, to be precise -- is a production of "The Mikado" by the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players (NY GASP), a decades-old troupe.
This summer's theater offerings include "Cats" (making its first appearance at Wolf Trap), in June, as well as "The Sound of Music" in September.
Staff writers Sarah Kaufman and Anne Midgette contributed to this report.
April 19, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
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