In performance: NSO at Wolf Trap
NSO treads familiar ground with pleasant "Romeo" evening
by Joe Banno
The “Romeo and Juliet” themed program the National Symphony presented on Friday at Wolf Trap could hardly be called original. Orchestras of every stripe (including a few second-tier and community orchestras in the DC area) have performed the same grouping of scores – Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” Overture, excerpts from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” ballet, and the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s “West Side Story."
But when played with the brio and carefully honed phrasing conductor Emil de Cou drew from the NSO, even this thrice-familiar music managed to come across as fresh. The Tchaikovsky was dark and punchy, the Prokofiev strong on color and dramatic incident, and de Cou’s elemental, slightly messy reading of the Bernstein dropped the musical-theatre gloss to bring out the score’s pungent, poly-rhythmic modernism. The NSO sounded energized all evening, though the Filene Center’s usually fine audio-mixing tended to blare and grow opaque in fortissimos.
(read more after the jump)
Arias from Gounod’s popular opera “Romeo et Juliette" were added to the mix on Friday, performed by a notably sweet-toned pair of singers from the Wolf Trap Opera Company, soprano Hana Park and tenor Nathaniel Peake. Two more WTOC singers, soprano Ashlyn Rust and tenor David Portillo, treaded a nicely gauged line between classical poise and Broadway heart in four vocal numbers from “West Side Story," which followed the Symphonic Dances.
Just once, though, it would be nice to hear this kind of program embrace rarities like the “Romeo and Juliet”-inspired scores of Boris Blacher, Frederick Delius, David Diamond, Sergey Taneyev or Riccardo Zandonai.
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