- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Washington National Opera General Director Placido Domingo yesterday revealed the company’s 2007-08, season, which he described as “an incredible opportunity” to extend the “richness of opera to everyone … from the expert to the newcomer.” All of the productions will be presented in the Kennedy Center Opera House.

Highlights, outlined in a press conference yesterday morning in the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, include a new production of Puccini’s “La Boheme,” with one performance simulcast on the Mall, and the Washington premiere of American composer William Bolcom’s acclaimed opera “A View From the Bridge.” In a surprising announcement sure to disappoint local “Ring” aficionados, Mr. Domingo revealed that the expected production of Wagner’s “Siegfried,” the third opera in the company’s new “American” Ring Cycle, has been postponed until the 2008-09 season for budgetary reasons.

Mr. Domingo later explained to this reporter that funding for the Ring Cycle had been delayed, necessitating this last-minute move. “It’s painful,” he said, “but we will still be able to complete the Ring in the time frame we originally announced.” With “Siegfried” bumped to 2008-09, the company plans to move the final opera in the cycle, “Gotterdammerung,” to the 2009-10 season, when the entire cycle is slated for a reprise.

WNO has substituted Wagner’s “Der fliegende Hollander” (“The Flying Dutchman”) for the postponed “Siegfried.” Popular bass-baritone Alan Held has been signed to appear as the ghostly hero, with remaining cast members to be announced in the near future.

Based on an Arthur Miller post-World War II New York drama, Mr. Bolcom’s “A View From the Bridge” was premiered by the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1999 and subsequently performed by the Metropolitan Opera during its 2002-03 season. The WNO cast will consist largely of veterans from these performances. The composer, who appeared at yesterday’s press conference, said he was elated to discover that “we’re going to do this opera in Washington.”

The company’s opening production of “La Boheme” will be set in modern times by Polish director Mariusz Trelinski, whose recently reprised production of “Madama Butterfly” has been popular with area audiences. After hailing its cast of “young singers with beautiful voices,” Mr. Domingo said this “Boheme” should appeal to newer fans as well. Headliners include Mexican tenor Arturo Chacon-Cruz as Rudolfo, who’ll morph into a photographer in this update.

Other operas on tap next season will include a new John Pascoe production of Mozart’s timeless “Don Giovanni,” conducted by maestro Domingo; a revival of the company’s production of Richard Strauss’ “Elektra,” featuring soprano Susan Bullock; and Verdi’s timeless “Rigoletto,” starring acclaimed baritone Carlos Alvarez as the tragic court jester.

In another surprise, the company also will present its first performances of the rarely heard Handel gem “Tamerlano” (“Tamburlaine”), based loosely on the exploits of the legendary Tatar warlord. Countertenor David Daniels stars in the title role, and Mr. Domingo appears in his American debut as Bajazet, the Ottoman Sultan.

The WNO will conclude its season with two concert performances of Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” in May 2008, featuring Salvatore Licitra and Delora Zajick.

Queried about the mixed critical reception of Tan Dun’s new opera “The First Emperor,” currently running at the Met, Mr. Domingo, who sings the title role, pronounced the work “wonderful,” explaining: “In just the last performance, we received a standing ovation.” He indicated, however, that both he and Tan Dun — who composed the score for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” — agree that “the piece could change” somewhat in future productions.

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