Readers of Spey know: we love a good party, especially when it celebrates art in Washington. We were all the more delighted, then, to join Her Excellency Vlora Çitaku, Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo in Washington, D.C., for an art-filled evening in celebration of another successful season for Washington Performing Arts.
The evening started as delightful ones do, with a glass of wine in a beautiful setting and the company of wonderful people. We were welcomed into the baroque Warne Ballroom of the venerable Cosmos Club by Her Excellency the Ambassador, together with Jenny Bilfield, President and CEO of Washington Performing Arts. They presided over a brief reception before a happy coterie of guests settled themselves into a hushed reverie for the performance ahead. Shortly, a rapturous applause heralded the entrance of Rame Lahaj, acclaimed Kosovan tenor currently in residence at the L.A. Opera as Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata.
With the accompaniment of Louis Lohraseb on piano, Mr. Lahaj took us on a journey through classical masterpieces, lauded operatic favorites, and Kosovan ballads. His expressive attention to character as a star in the operatic arena was on full display. Highs and lows, love lost and passion enflamed – the tenor drew from a lifetime of leading roles to captivate the audience with his enigmatic personality and vocal range. And while Mr. Lahaj presented a varied repertoire of both well-known international standards and traditional Balkan pieces, the next artist was pure Kosovo: Vasel Shkreli on the lahuta.
The lahuta is a single-stringed instrument native to the region that serves as the backdrop upon which a tapestry of musical folklore and epic poetry is woven. One could tell that Mr. Shkreli could recite a thousand legends with this instrument on his knees. It was a brief peek into an ancient tradition that resonates just as powerfully today.
Thus concluded the evening and, with it, the Washington Performing Arts mainstage season. Even as we think fondly on this decadent night, we look forward with great expectation to the exciting summer concert series ahead. Won’t you join us? It’s a wonderful occasion to wear pearls.
Image: Rame Lahaj in performance at the Cosmos Club. Credit: David J. Claypool, Kalorama Photography.