- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Washington National Opera’s General Director Placido Domingo last weekend announced the company’s 2009-10 season.

The upcoming bill of fare includes six operas and three special events, one of which is tucked into the current season’s schedule. Mr. Domingo made the announcement from Beijing, where he recently performed with members of the company’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists.

“With a blend of beloved classics and dramatic masterpieces and exceptionally talented singers, directors and conductors, our season is one that will delight opera newcomers and aficionados alike,” Mr. Domingo said, adding that the season will be “of the highest quality, featuring the best talents and finest productions.”

Highlights of the new season — the company’s 54th — include a revival of WNO’s “Porgy and Bess,” a smash hit a few seasons back, and the first-ever company production of Ambroise Thomas’ “Hamlet.”

“Porgy” features Wolf Trap Opera alumnus Eric Owens in the title role, alternating with Lester Lynch. Indira Mahajan returns as Bess, and acclaimed conductor John Mauceri conducts. “Hamlet” stars tenor Carlos Alvarez as the tormented prince of Denmark and features American opera’s favorite bad guy, bass Samuel Ramey, as the evil Claudius. Mr. Domingo will conduct.

Figaro, Seville’s witty master of all trades, will have a field day next season, appearing in productions of the two most famous operas to bear his name, Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” and Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee, well-known to Washington Concert Opera devotees for his astonishingly supple and powerful voice, will make his long-awaited WNO debut in Rossini’s opera in the role of Count Almaviva. Mozart’s take on the Figaro legend features Russian bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov as Figaro and New Zealand baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes as the Count.

Rounding out the season’s full productions will be performances of Richard Strauss’ surreal “Ariadne auf Naxos” and Verdi’s popular “Falstaff.”

The former features soprano Irene Theorin in the dual role of Prima Donna/Ariadne and tenor Par Lindskog as Bacchus. WNO Music Director Heinz Fricke conducts. “Falstaff” features bass-baritone Gordon Hawkins as Ford. The title role has not been announced.

The company’s apparently shortened season — six opera productions as opposed to the usual seven — is due in part to the sudden postponement of the company’s complete Ring cycle, which was slated to occur this coming fall. Nonetheless, according to a company spokesperson, the upcoming season actually will consist of roughly the same number of performances overall because of an extended run for “Porgy,” which is anticipated to sell out quickly.

The company is rounding out its schedule with three special events. Most welcome will be two concert performances of Wagner’s “Gotterdammerung” this fall, featuring the cast that was scheduled to sing the staged version before the entire cycle was postponed. Mr. Fricke will conduct.

Mr. Domingo will conduct “An Evening With Olga and Ildar” on Oct. 3, highlighting the talents of mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina and bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov.

A surprise was the announcement that on May 1, Mr. Domingo himself will star in “Placido Domingo Sings: From My Latin Soul,” a special concert followed by a Latin gala. Anticipating an overflow demand for seats, the company has scheduled the show for DAR Constitution Hall.

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