- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2004

Washington National Opera General Director Placido Domingo made an impassioned plea during a Wednesday press conference for classical music education in American schools to counterbalance students’ immersion in pop music.

Mr. Domingo noted that in European countries, “particularly Germany and Austria, musical education is so important” in the school curriculum.

In contrast, American children are fed pop music from birth, “listen to it on the radio, listen to it and play it at school and have little chance to hear classical music,” he said. “We can help change this direction,” he added.

Mr. Domingo thinks such efforts would be easier if young children were introduced to classical music earlier. “They are open to everything,” he said. “It is a battle we have to win.”

In the same press conference, held to announce the Washington National Opera’s name change from the old Washington Opera, Mr. Domingo stated that the company is tightly focused on advancing its three primary initiatives: “the promotion and performance of American opera; performance and educational outreach to bring opera to all citizens; and the education and training of aspiring opera professionals.”

The new Washington National Opera Center for Education and Training will be the home of the company’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, Education and Outreach Department, and its new Intern and Apprentice Programs, according to Mr. Dom -ingo.

“We are reaching out to new audiences with our programs as well, to little children, teenagers, young professionals and the military,” Mr. Domingo said. “This is what America needs, an introduction and access to great art, and we at Washington National Opera are its ambassadors.”

The company already broadcasts some of its performances on public radio and television, but it announced a new program to bring the opera to military personnel with the help of the USO. The first such event will be a concert by the company’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists at Fort Myer March 4.

The company’s Opera Camp for Kids will stage the world premiere of the new children’s opera “The Enchantment of Dreams,” by Cary John Franklin, in the summer. This American work is a co-commission with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

Additional American works on the WNO’s horizon include the world premiere of Scott Wheeler’s opera “Democracy” in January 2005 and an upcoming production of Andre Previn’s 1998 opera “A Streetcar Named Desire” in May — its first East Coast performances.

Leading roles in “Democracy” will be sung by the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists in performances that will be held at Lisner Auditorium. “Democracy,” a bittersweet comedy of love, politics and betrayal, is based on a novel by Henry Adams and is set in Washington during the administration of President Grant.

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