Fall Arts Preview: Performance

Bass Solomon Howard will perform in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Nov. 25. Photo by Jon Adjahoe.


William Shakespeare has a way of pervading other genres, especially and most often opera. So it is that Washington National Opera is opening its 2019-20 season in the Kennedy Center Opera House with one of the Bard’s greatest tragedies and Verdi’s biggest triumphs, “Otello.” The opera-ready tale of passion, betrayal and jealousy stars Leah Crocetto as Desdemona, Russell Thomas as Otello and George Gagnidze as Iago (Sept. 26 to Nov. 16).

Among Shakespeare’s best-known works, the jealous Moor’s story is perhaps topped only by that of the moody Dane. Washington Concert Opera will present Ambroise Thomas’s “Hamlet,” based on an adaptation by Alexandre Dumas and Paul Meurice, in George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, with soprano Lisette Oropesa as Ophelia, baritone Jacques Imbrailo as Hamlet and mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti as Gertrude (Nov. 24).

Opera Lafayette, with its emphasis on period operas, will celebrate its 25th season with a production of John Blow’s “Venus and Adonis” at the Corcoran Gallery (Nov. 21 and 23).

If it’s star-power singing you’re looking for, the amazing Joyce DiDonato will sing music from her album “In War and Peace” as part of the Renée Fleming Voices series in the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater (Nov. 8 and 9). Later that month, Washington National Opera star and Marian Anderson Vocal Award winner Solomon Howard will give a concert in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (Nov. 25).

The Russian Chamber Art Society will launch its season at the Embassy of France with “An Enchanted Evening: Fairy-Tale Operas by Russian Composers,” featuring five rising stars from Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program (Oct. 4).

The Vocal Arts DC season in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater begins with soprano Brenda Rae and pianist Jonathan Ware (Sept. 15), then continues with baritone Christian Gerhaher and pianist Gerold Huber (Oct. 18).


On the program for the Cathedral Choral Society’s big fall concert are Haydn’s “Te Deum for the Empress Marie Therese” and “Harmoniemesse,” along with Mozart’s “Laudate Dominum.” The featured singers are soprano Jessica Beebe, mezzo-soprano Mikke Sodergren, tenor Brian Giebler and bass Jonathan Woody (Oct. 20).

The Choral Arts Society of Washington will join the National Symphony Orchestra to perform Orff’s “Carmina Burana” in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (Oct. 3 to 5). For Día de los Muertos, the group’s chamber singers will sing Brahms’s “Ein deutsches Requiem” with the New Orchestra of Washington at the Mexican Cultural Institute (Nov. 9 and 10).


This Saturday at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, the Apollo Orchestra will perform with trumpeter Chris Gekker and dance ensemble enVISIon (Sept. 14).

The National Symphony Orchestra will start off with a “jazz-inspired” season-opening gala concert in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, spearheaded by Music Director Gianandrea Noseda and featuring pianist Yuja Wang (Sept. 28). Maestro Noseda will also conduct “An American in Paris” at the Anthem (Oct. 28) and, back in the Concert Hall, “Also sprach Zarathustra” with soprano Renée Fleming and baritone Rod Gilfry (Nov. 21).

The enduring period-music group Folger Consort will perform “Music for Machiavelli: Florence Circa 1500” with soprano Emily Noel at St. Mark’s on Capitol Hill (Sept. 27 to 29).

The Embassy Series will open its 25th anniversary season with a performance by Romanian violinist Irina Muresanu at the Embassy of Romania (Sept. 13). Other highlights: a 25th anniversary celebration of South African independence at the Embassy of South Africa (Oct. 10) and a concert by rising young Afghan pianist Elham Fanous at the Embassy of Afghanistan (Nov. 22).

The Kennedy Center’s new Reach campus will host a one-night-only performance by avant-garde pianist Margaret Leng Tan of music composed by Merce Cunningham collaborator John Cage (Oct. 2).

A fall highlight for PostClassical Ensemble, performing in the nave of Washington National Cathedral, is “Native American Inspirations: From Spillville to Pine Ridge,” featuring the Lakota Music Project of the South Dakota Symphony in its first trip east (Oct. 16).

Two notable upcoming performances in the 78th season of concerts at the National Gallery of Art will be by violinist Rachel Barton Pine and harpsichordist Jory Vinikour (Oct. 6) and by the Gewandhaus Woodwind Quartet (Nov. 10).

In conjuction with the exhibition “Bonnard to Vuillard,” The Phillips Collection will present a program of vocal and piano music called “Music, Symbolism & Les Nabis (Nov. 10).

Jazz, Pop, Rock and Hip Hop

Blues Alley is bringing to the neighborhood such jazz greats as the Ravi Coltrane Quartet (Sept. 13, 14 and 15), singer Dee Dee Bridgewater (Sept. 19, 20, 21 and 22), the Mike Stern – Jeff Lorber Fusion All Stars (Sept. 26, 27, 28 and 29), harmonica virtuoso Frederic Yonnet (Oct. 11, 12 and 13) and trumpeter extraorinario Arturo Sandoval (Nov. 14, 15, 16 and 17).

Coming to Strathmore: Lucinda Williams performing her 1998 album “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” (Sept. 24), India.Arie (Oct. 11), Chick Corea Trilogy presented by Washington Performing Arts (Oct. 30) and mandolinist Chris Thile (Nov. 5). 

Washington Performing Arts will celebrate the 25thanniversary of the one-of-a-kind group Pink Martini with a Kennedy Center Concert Hall show also featuring China Forbes and Meow Meow (Oct. 13). The following month, Amjad Ali Khan and his sons will appear at Sixth & I as a “power trio of sarod players” (Nov. 16).

The late and very great Nat King Cole will be the focus of a National Symphony Pops concert in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with singers Patti Austin, Freddy Cole, Eric Benét, Dulé Hill and BeBe Winans (Oct. 17 to 19).

Greeting fans in the Barns at Wolf Trap as temperatures drop: jazz pianist John Eaton (Nov. 10) and quintessential Broadway baby Sutton Foster (Nov. 23 and 24).

Who’s in your Capital One Arena? For starters: Carrie Underwood (Oct. 4), Chance the Rapper (Oct. 11), Post Malone (Oct. 12) and the Chainsmokers (Oct. 15).

The Anthem, the live-music centerpiece of the Wharf, will showcase: the B-52s (Sept. 17), Lizzo (Sept. 25-26), Zed (Oct. 4), Rachel Bloom (Oct. 10), the Black Keys (Oct. 12 and 16), Wilco (Oct. 15), Bon Iver (Oct. 17-18) and Sara Bareilles (Nov. 19-20).

Sara Bareilles will be at the Anthem on Nov. 19 and 20.

The Birchmere continues to cross genres with aplomb. The fall lineup includes: the Robert Cray Band (Sept. 26), Gary Puckett & the Union Gap (Oct. 6), Lee Ann Womack (Oct. 18), Stephanie Mills (Oct. 25-26), the Wailin’ Jennys (Nov. 5, 6 and 7), Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin (Nov. 8, 9 and 10), John Hiatt (Nov. 12), Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons at the Warner Theatre (Nov. 14-15), Chaka Khan at the Warner Theatre (Nov. 16), Chris Botti (Nov. 22-23) and Herman’s Hermits (Nov. 24).

And as the Kennedy Center expands its hip hop programming, this fall it will present, among others, the Robert Glasper Experiment with guest emcee Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def (Sept. 26 to 29) and Grammy-winning rapper Lupe Fiasco (Nov. 14).


A new and intimate version of “A Chorus Line,” the classic showbiz musical by Michael Bennett, settles in at Signature Theatre for a nice long run (Oct. 29 to Jan. 5). A similar long run, but in a different vein, is Olney Theatre Center’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain,” based on everybody’s favorite movie musical (Nov. 8 to Jan. 5).

Inspired by the Song of Songs, “Love Sick” comes to Theater J by way of the East Bay, adapted by Israeli actress and writer Ofra Daniel, with music by Daniel and Lion Ben-Hur (through Sept. 29).

The Broadway at the National series at the National Theatre will present Jimmy Buffett’s “Escape to Margaritaville” (Oct. 8 to 13), the 20th anniversary production of “Rent” (Nov. 12 to 17) and actor John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons” (Nov. 21 to 23).

And what would life be like without “Cats”? Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revolutionary feline creations — by way of T. S. Eliot — are returning to the Kennedy Center Opera House (Sept. 17 to Oct. 6).


Playwright August Wilson died in 2005, but his major work, a 10-play cycle exploring African American lives and life in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, is as alive as ever, looming in equal parts as a challenge and a siren call for actors, directors, theaters and theater artists all over the country. Washington is no exception, where his plays from “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” to “Radio News” to “Fences” to “The Music Lesson” to “Jitney” have been performed all over the region.

It’s fitting that Artistic Director Molly Smith will kick off an August Wilson Festival at Arena Stage with a production of “Jitney,” directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who directed the Broadway version of the play, which concerns the life of taxi drivers dealing with changing times and oppression (Sept. 23 to Oct. 20).

The festival includes panel discussions, screenings, a master class and a variety of activities and events leading up to the second production, “Seven Guitars,” directed by Tazewell Thompson (April 3 to May 3).

But that’s not all. Ford’s Theatre is staging “Fences,” easily the best-known of Wilson’s plays, thanks in large part to the very successful film version starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, who won an Oscar. The Ford’s production, directed by Timothy Douglas, stars Chris Wallace and Erika Rose (Sept. 27 to Oct. 27).

In addition, just up the road, Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre is presenting Wilson’s “Radio Golf” (Oct. 15 to Nov. 17).

Mosaic Theater Company’s season at the Atlas Performing Arts Center has already begun, with “Fabulation or the Re-Education of Undine” by Lynn Nottage, directed by Eric Ruffin (through Sept. 22), as has Studio Theatre’s main series, with John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt,” directed by Matt Torney (through Oct. 6).

John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” is running now through Oct. 6 at Studio Theatre. Courtesy Studio Theatre.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, always the edge of the edgy, opens its 40th season with “Fairview” by Jackie Sibblies Drury, making Woolly the first company to produce the show outside of New York’s Soho Rep. Artistic Director Maria Manuela Goyanes describes the play as “a play about race, shattering the lenses with which we see each other” (Sept. 9 to Oct. 6).

Heidi Schreck brings the Broadway production of “What the Constitution Means to Me,” which became a sensation and a prize-winner, to the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater (Sept. 11 to 22).

GALA Hispanic Theatre, entering its 44th season, brings us a play from the Spanish Golden Age, “Life is a Dream” by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, performed in Spanish with English surtitles and directed by Founding Producing Artistic Director Hugo Medrano (Sept. 12 to Oct. 13).

The Homecoming Season at Round House Theatre, which has returned to its revamped and expanded Bethesda home, will get rolling with “School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play” by Jocelyn Bioh, directed by Nicole A. Watson (Sept. 18 to Oct. 13).

Here’s something new: Taffety Punk with a Riot Grrrls production of an all-female “Othello,” directed by Kelsey Mesa at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (Sept. 19 to Oct. 12).

Caryl Churchill doesn’t get older. The eminent author of “Cloud Nine” and “Top Girls” is also the author of “Escaped Alone,” directed by the much-honored actress Holly Twyford, at Signature Theatre (Sept. 24 to Nov. 3).

“West By God,” in a world-premiere production at the Keegan Theatre, is a play by Brandon McCoy set in a small West Virginia town. It’s directed by Jeremy Skidmore, with Rena Cherry Brown, Susan Marie Rhea and Colin Smith in the cast (Sept. 27 to Oct. 20).

New Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director Simon Godwin isn’t starting the season with the Bard, but he’s got playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, of “An Octoroon” fame, which might be the next best thing. The premise of his new play, “Everybody,” directed by Will Davis and featuring Nancy Robinette, is that “Everybody” is a role assigned each night from a small cast, and everybody’s happy until Death comes calling (Oct. 15 to Nov. 17).


The Kennedy Center will celebrate the 100th birthday of the late, legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham with a presentation by Compagnie Centre National de Danse Contemporaine-Angers of Cunningham’s “Beach Birds” and “BIPED” in the Eisenhower Theater (Oct. 3 to 5).

The Washington Ballet, led since 2016 by former American Ballet Theatre star Julie Kent, will kick off its season with “NEXTsteps,” a program of all new works by emerging choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, John Heginbotham and Jessica Lang at Sidney Harman Hall (Oct. 23 to 27).

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