- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Placido Domingo, artistic director of the Washington Opera, announced the company's upcoming season yesterday in a press conference at DAR Constitution Hall, the opera's temporary home.
Beginning with a gala opening night of Johann Strauss' "Die Fledermaus," the 2003-04 season will spend half of the year housed at Constitution Hall while the Kennedy Center Opera House undergoes extensive renovations that have just begun.
The new season, the company's 48th, will include seven operas. In addition to "Die Fledermaus" ("The Bat"), Bellini's "Norma" and Wagner's "Die Walkure" ("The Valkyries") will be performed in the new theater-in-the-round being built inside Constitution Hall's cavernous auditorium. The Washington Opera will return home to the newly renovated Opera House in March 2004, when it will open with performances of Puccini's "Manon Lescaut."
Also on tap for the spring are Rossini's sprightly "La Cenerentola" ("Cinderella"); Verdi's beloved "La Traviata" ("The Wayward Woman"), which will platoon sopranos Hei-Kyung Hong and Andrea Rost in the challenging role of Violetta; and the East Coast premiere of composer-conductor Andre Previn's new American opera, "A Streetcar Named Desire," based on the smoldering drama by Tennessee Williams.
"This opera, I think, is a wonderful new work, and an opera like this needs second or third hearings if it is to enter into our repertory," said Mr. Domingo, who also announced that Mr. Previn would conduct the opening performances.
Mr. Domingo was enthusiastic about the upcoming season, during which he will star as the tragic Siegmund in "Walkure" in addition to conducting performances of "Manon," which he says "has a special place in my heart."
Other highlights will include the bel canto and coloratura pyrotechnics of "Cenerentola" and "Norma." The latter, which stars renowned Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian in the title role, is being performed for the first time by the Washington Opera.
A special attraction during the gala opening-night performances of "Fledermaus" will be a number of very special guests who will show up in costume during the opera's grand ball scene. "You can imagine I will be one of them," Mr. Domingo joked.
Mr. Domingo conducted a brief tour of the work-in-progress that is Constitution Hall. The first 18 rows of seats already have been removed to accommodate the large new stage. The opera orchestra will perform behind the singers on the hall's original stage, remaining in sync through the use of sophisticated video monitors.
The first production in Constitution Hall this season will be Verdi's "Aida," which opens Feb. 22. This "Aida" will feature high-tech costuming, sets and video projections but will be missing one popular staple. "We will not have any elephants this time," Mr. Domingo said.

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