March 2, 2017 at 5:52 pm EST | by Joey DiGuglielmo
SPRING ARTS 2017 — classical: Not as gay as you’d think
classical concerts, gay news, Washington Blade

A scene from ‘Champion,’ a gay-themed jazz opera that runs March 4-18 at the Kennedy Center. (Photo by Ken Howard; courtesy WNO)

The classical world overall feels just a tad obtuse in regard to LGBT issues. It’s not so much that being out is any big deal, for many contemporary composers, conductors and instrumentalists are, but far fewer are out in classical music than in pop culture.

So what you’re left with in a big, gay town like Washington is a spring classical music scene in which very little by way of LGBT content or personnel is known. Its numbers, if not quite its themes, are probably just as gay as the D.C. theater scene (maybe not quite, but I’d guess close), yet unless you’re in the pits, it’s a tough thing to gauge.

Here’s what we know:

• Queer organist Cameron Carpenter, an envelope pusher who’s both loved and loathed but is a true virtuoso at the console, plays the Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, Md.) on Thursday, March 23 (rescheduled from March 3) at 8 p.m. Though he’s performed several times on the Kennedy Center’s new Casavant organ, this will be the first time Washington audiences have a chance to hear his Marshall & Ogletree International Touring Organ, a sleek, digital instrument he’s been touring the world with the last few years that packs an impressive sonic wallop (technical issues reportedly caused the rescheduled date). Pipe organ purists, a notoriously fussy bunch, will never fully embrace this concept, but that’s OK — Carpenter is still a master technician especially adept at balancing musical nourishment and straight-up entertainment. Tickets are $40-65. Details here.

• “Champion” is Terence Blanchard’s jazz opera about the real-life story of Emile Griffith, a closeted gay boxer from the ‘60s whose story comes to life with a soulful score, jazz-style singing and Afro-Caribbean beats with a libretto by Michael Cristofer. It got strong reviews when it debuted in 2013 with the New York Times saying it “strikes a resonant chord.” It runs March 4-18 in the Kennedy Center Opera House (2700 F St., N.W.). Tickets range from $35-300. Details here.

• Gay-helmed contemporary opera outfit UrbanArias offers “Lucy,” a new work by John Glover and Kelley Rourke about the true story of Maurice Temerlin and the chimpanzee he raised from birth, runs April 1-8 at Atlas Performing Arts Center (atlasarts.org). Tickets are $35. Details at urbanarias.org.

• The D.C. Different Drummers, a queer orchestra, offers “Glitter and Be Gay! a Concert Exploring LGBT Composers” on Saturday, March 25 at 7 p.m. at the Church of the Epiphany (1317 G St., N.W.). Tickets are $20. Details at dcdd.org.

Virginia Opera, under the baton of out conductor Adam Turner, brings Puccini’s “Turandot” to George Mason University March 25-26. Tickets are $54-110. Details at cfa.gmu.edu.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington joins the Washington Chorus for “Carmina Burana” and Stravinsky’s “Oedipus Rex” at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, May 14. Tickets are $18-72. Details at thewashingtonchorus.org.

Not LGBT but also of note: the Maryland State BoyChoir have performances in Baltimore April 2 and May 20; “Shift: a Festival of American Orchestras” runs March 28-April 1 at the Kennedy Center; Washington Concert Opera presents Beethoven’s “Leonore” March 5 at the G.W. Lisner Auditorium; Young Artists of America presents “The Circle of Life: the Songs of Time Rice” on Sunday, March 12 at the Strathmore; pianist Daniil Trifonov performs at the Kennedy Center on Tuesday, April 4: violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter performs at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, April 8; sitarist Anoushka Shankar performs at Sixth & I also on April 8th; and pianist Yefim Bronfman performs at UDC Theater of the Arts on Tuesday, April 25. For full details on all Washington Performing Arts events, visit washingtonperformingarts.org.

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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