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Wolf Trap's best-ever summer

Sheryl Crow (Evy Mages / For The Washington Post)

By Jacqueline Trescott

When the legendary Willie Nelson pulled into Wolf Trap this summer, every seat from the rim of the stage to the back of the sloping lawn, was filled.

And Willie wasn't the only performer who drew sell-out crowds to the summer amphitheater. Twenty acts sold out.

At the end of the 2010 season, Wolf Trap officials announced the just-finished season had been its best ever, with a total attendance of 450,000. Ticket sales brought in $16.6 million, the highest tally in its 39-year history.

"It was an up season. It showed there is a turnaround in the economy. And also we tried to combine new things we hadn't done with people who hadn't been here for a while that people wanted," said Terrence D. Jones, the president and CEO of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

The previous season had been a complicated one for the venue's executives. Because of the recession many performers were not touring and the loyal audience was juggling a decreased entertainment budget. In 2009 Wolf Trap had only 86 performers at the main stage Filene Center compared to 106 this year. "That is quite a difference and more shows this year allow us to have greater attendance," Jones said. In 2009 the audience numbered 370,000.

In addition to the tried and true acts, and some might say safe crowd pleasers, Wolf Trap had 32 first-timers. "We put together a diverse season, from Broadway to contemporary dance, from symphony to world music. We are just not one type of entertainment, and that makes a difference."

For example, the Golden Dragon Acrobats from China played the arena for the first time.

The Wolf Trap Opera Company attracted 4,000 people. The third installment of the "Lord of the Rings" movie, accompanied by live music, had 10,000 people over two nights. A Wolf Trap commission from the Paul Taylor Dance Company had a one-night performance with 3,000 people in the audience, said Jones.

After expenses are paid, the revenues from the performances go to Wolf Trap's education programs.

Besides country superstar Willie, a few others who filled the house and lawn were:

* The National Symphony Orchestra with Marvin Hamlisch and Idina Menzel.
* Earth, Wind & Fire
* Sheryl Crow
* A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor
* Counting Crows
* Harry Connick, Jr.
* Pat Benatar & REO Speedwagon
* Backstreet Boys
* Steve Miller Band
* Train
* Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons

By Jacqueline Trescott  | October 1, 2010; 8:20 AM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott  | Tags:  Willie Nelson, Wolf Trap Park, summer concerts  
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Regarding the part saying, "In addition to the tried and true acts, and some might say safe crowd pleasers, Wolf Trap had 32 first-timers." I'd extend that argument to the 32 first-timers as well. Wolf Trap has seen better days for including any cutting-edge arts that are not, as noted, "safe crowd pleasers." Sadly, though, these programming decisions are usually based upon financial pressures, but this season's results should hopefully inspire the management to loosen up a bit and invite artists who are not egging merely for pleasant date nights of EZ listening.

Posted by: hpmoon | October 4, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

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