Washington National Opera
Change — big and transforming — seems to be a part of just about any human endeavor these days.
Major change is coming to the Washington National Opera. Placido Domingo, the world-renowned tenor, who has been general director of the company since 1996, helping to launch it to another level of respect, stature and accomplishment, will be leaving his post as of June, 2011.
If you read the public announcements from both Domingo and the WNO board, the change was mutually arrived at, and apparently under consideration in recent times. The statements sound a lot like those surrounding the news of the breakup of a much-beloved couple who have come to a convivial agreement to go their separate ways.
Herewith: “We appreciate all that Placido Domingo has done for our great company. He will be missed, but all good things come to an end,” WNO President Kenneth R. Feinberg said. “Placido’s association with WNO was essential to the company’s artistic development and helped it to gain recognition nationally and internationally. We are looking forward to him being with us in Washington this spring to sing in ‘Iphigenie in Tauride’ and to conduct performances of ‘Madame Butterfly’ and ‘Don Pasquale.’ While today’s news may mark the end of the formal marriage, we are looking forward to artistic collaborations in the future.”
Domingo brought the white heat of star power to the company, by way of talent, reputation and international appeal, giving it something it probably did not have before — glamour. In addition, he brought innovative programs to the company including free simulcasts of season-opening operas, the WNO’s Center for Education and Training, international tours, and, essential for the future, the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program
Domingo at 69 remains a busy director and performer, and is still the General Director of the Los Angeles Opera. Under Domingo, who took over after Martin Feinstein, the company experienced international growth and saw the arrival of star conductors, directors and performers, including Jose Carreras, Renee Fleming and Franco Zefferelli. The company also embraced newer American works like the recently acclaimed “A View from the Bridge.” But there were also problems and some critical grousing as a result of difficulties in the current economic climate.
It will be interesting to see which direction the WNO will be headed with the departure of Domingo, a decidedly marquee big name brand. The possibility that the company might merge with the Kennedy Center, where it pays rent for its use of the Opera House, has already been bandied about.