After having to cancel events last year, Wolf Trap is getting ready to welcome people back for its 50th anniversary season at the Feline Center this summer season.
Arvind Manocha, president and CEO of Wolf Trap, says he’s feeling so many different emotions—elation, relief, caution—as the calendar gets ready to turn to July and the slate of events commences.
“As we’re seeing with many aspects of society opening back up, the first steps are emotional and sometimes complicated,” he says. “There have been so many experiences that were put on hold, and we’re starting to enjoy them all again, with all the pent up anticipation that comes with delayed gratification. I can’t wait to see people gathered again listening to music.”
With that unknown element still somewhat existing, it presented a very challenging job for Manocha and his team to get artists to commit and plan out a diverse schedule that would appeal to guests of all ages and lovers of different genres of music.
“We’re typically putting together plans for next season while we’re still in the current season—that is, a year in advance,” Manocha says. “If you think about how much has changed with regards to pandemic from last fall to this spring, you get a sense of the monumentality of uncertainty we were trying to manage. For live events, it takes time to set them up properly, and this year all of us in the sector have been working on timelines that two years ago we would have said were impossible.”
Wolf Trap has long been a place where everyone in the community feels welcome, and has always strived to create an experience that is easy and accessible, from the picnicking policy to the lawn seating to bringing artists from all genres to the stage.
“Those ideals were very much part of the season planning, as they always are,” Manocha says. “And having something for everyone is always a goal and in my mind, not one you ever fully reach. This year with the short timelines and the fact that the music business is still very much unsettled as to which artists are working and which are taking the summer off, it’s a bit more complicated than usual, but striving to have breadth is not just a 50th anniversary value—it will continue next year and years after that.”
Still, looking at the summer lineup, which is available at www.wolftrap.org, he’s done a stellar job. Artists such as Max Weinberg (July 10-11), Amos Lee (July 21-22), Norm Lewis (July 30-31), Lindsey Sterling (Aug. 5), Harry Connick Jr. (Aug. 19) and Train (Aug. 20) are all set to pay a visit.
“I’m excited for all of them,” Manocha says. “The actual 50th anniversary concert, on July 1st, is going to be very special. We are honoring the spirit of Wolf Trap and the legacy of our founder, Catherine Filene Shouse, who was also a fierce champion of the empowerment of women. All four of our guests artists joining the National Symphony that night are women who are titans in the respective fields of music and I think Mrs. Shouse would love the program.”
He defines the summer season as being “typical Wolf Trap,” with a mix of new and old, a wide variety of musicians, and a strong sense of community.
“I think people will enjoy everything they’ve come to love about Wolf Trap, even more so since we’ve had to put it all on pause for so long,” Manocha says. “Mrs. Shouse envisioned her beloved Wolf Trap to be a place where the community comes together to celebrate the arts. While tastes change and the mix evolves, that original vision continues. The thing about Wolf Trap is the sense of community—which I think given what we’ve all been through in the last year is both relevant and current—maybe more than ever.”
Opera and Classical
It’s not just pop and rock artists that people look forward to about Wolf Trap each summer. The site is also known for its amazing operas.
“This summer, WTO is telling stories—some known, like Cinderella, some unknown, like Anonymous Lover or Sāvitri—in as many different ways, from as many different perspectives as we can,” says Lee Anne Myslewski, vice president, opera and classical programming. From a forgotten piece by a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart to a 20th century retelling of a story from the Mahabharata, we are looking for universal themes that come from widely different places.”
She adds that the pieces Wolf Trap Opera is producing were chosen with specific singers in mind as highlighting the artistry of its singers is a primary focus.
“When we set the initial schedule, we were hoping to do stand-and-sing style concert opera performances for 250 people,” Myslewski says. “As things have opened up, the challenge has been to slightly amplify our projects while keeping the various populations (singers, orchestra, chorus, stagehands, costumers, makeup artists) safe and healthy.”
A favorite production coming up is “STARias,” which will feature a number of high-profile alums returning to the Filene
Center to sing a number of big, powerful scenes from Puccini and Verdi.
“If you’re an opera fan, you’ll be able to add to your list of rare pieces that you’ve experienced live,” Myslewski says. “If you’re new to opera or trying it out for the first time there are a few shorter evening options that you can dip your toe into. And if you love musical theater, try Sweeney Todd—the familiar piece, but with perhaps a different kind of singing than you might be used to.”
For the Children
Another staple of any summer at Wolf Trap is its children’s programing, and this year, it’s back with a vengeance.
“We have an extremely diverse and exciting lineup of children’s artists performing this summer,” says Cate Betchold, Wolf Trap’s director of internships and community programs.
Among the highlights are Inez Barlatier (July 20), offering stories and songs from Haiti; Grammy winner Joanie Leeds (July 27), whose latest album “All the Ladies” focuses on female empowerment and celebrates influential women of yesterday and today; and Elena Moon Park and Friends’ debut performance (July 28), performing her enchanting folk music from East and Southeast Asia.
“The artists that we book are excellent at engaging children of all ages through interactive, high-energy performances,” Betchold says. “Whether through call and response or guided movement, there is no lack of audience participation and that makes the experience that much more engaging for the children. It’s so important for children to be exposed to the performing arts at a young age because it teaches them to have an understanding of and appreciation for different arts forms and cultures that they might not otherwise experience.”