- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2000

The Washington Opera will present eight operas in its 2000-01 season one more than this season, Artistic Director Placido Domingo said in a press conference yesterday.

Mr. Domingo attributed the longer schedule to success in ticket sales and fund raising. The company's 45th season will feature 80 performances that will begin Oct. 21 and conclude April 7, 2001.

"We will again present two Verdi operas, since next season is the centennial of [Giuseppe Verdi's] death," Mr. Domingo said. "And it is indeed our millennium season, 2000-2001, whatever way you take it."

Productions will include the opera company's premieres of Richard Wagner's "Parsifal" and Jules Massenet's rarely performed "Don Quichotte" and two different takes on Beaumarchais' famous "Figaro" story Gioacchino Rossini's hilarious "Il barbiere di Siviglia" ("The Barber of Seville") and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's beloved "Le nozze di Figaro" ("The Marriage of Figaro"). Others are revivals of the company's Zack Brown productions of Giacomo Puccini's "Turandot" and Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Consul" and Verdi's "Il Trovatore" and "Don Carlo."

Mr. Domingo also had late-breaking news about this season. Soprano Daniela Dessi has canceled her appearances as Desdemona in the company's production of Verdi's "Otello," set to open March 1. Mr. Domingo gave as the reason "the delicate health of her parents." Sopranos Veronica Villaroel and Tatiana Pavlovskaya, who is a rising young star of Russia's Kirov Opera, have been penciled in on short notice to fill the role.

Mr. Domingo also put in a plug for this year's Domingo Gala for the 21st Century, which will take place March 12 at the Kennedy Center. The gala will star Mr. Domingo along with Dwayne Croft, Ainhoa Arteta and Hei-Kyung Hong who is wowing audiences as Cleopatra in Handel's "Giulio Cesare" and other glitterati. A few tickets for the event remain.

The 2000-2001 season will open at the Kennedy Center Opera House with "Don Quichotte," starring bass Ruggero Raimondi and Washington's home-grown superstar mezzo-soprano, Denyce Graves, in the first U.S. presentation of the much-praised production designed by Piero Faggioni.

Opening Oct. 28 and running in repertory with "Don Quichotte" will be "Il Trovatore," starring soprano Carol Vaness and tenor Fabio Armiliato. This production with the Los Angeles Opera and Sweden's Gothenburg Opera will be conducted by Mr. Domingo.

Mr. Domingo will star in the title role in "Parsifal," which will open Nov. 5 with a cast that will include soprano Karen Huffstodt, renowned Finnish bass Matti Salminen, baritone Alan Held and bass Sergei Leiferkus, who sings the role of the villain Scarpia in this season's production of Puccini's "Tosca." These performances will be conducted by Music Director Heinz Fricke.

In the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater in December and January, "Il barbiere di Siviglia" and the political tragedy "The Consul" will play in repertory. "Il barbiere" opens Dec. 23 with a revolving cast, and "The Consul" opens Dec. 30. It will star soprano Joanna Porackova as Magda. "The Consul," Mr. Domingo says, "is as timely today as it was in 1950, when it had its first performances because of the continuing suffering of people in Eastern Europe."

"Turandot" opens Feb. 24, 2001, and will platoon dramatic sopranos Sharon Sweet and Alessandra Marc in the title role. Opening March 10, 2001, will be "Le nozze di Figaro" in a new production conducted by Mr. Fricke. Concluding the season will be the monumental "Don Carlo," opening March 17 and starring tenor Ramon Vargas.

Mr. Domingo confirmed that the Opera House will undergo renovation during the 2002-2003 season, when the company will perform in Constitution Hall and the Eisenhower Theater. When the Washington Opera relocates to the Opera House full time in the fall of 2003, Mr. Domingo says, he hopes the company may be able to mount nine or 10 operas.

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