With Plàcido Domingo serving as General Director, Washington and Los Angeles have become inspiring stages for operatic performances along the years.
Their respective 2009-10 seasons include interesting artistic projects, such as a new production of Thomas' Hamlet with Diana Damrau, Samuel Ramey and Carlos Alvarez; and the USA premiere of Franz Schreker's The Stigmatized (LA Opera), this latter described by the New Yorker as a work that 'vacillates between melodies of Mediterranean grace and textures of otherworldy complexity'.
The Washington National Opera, whose collaboration with Domingo is a long-standing one (from 1996), offers a selection of works that span from European masterpieces to the core of the American tradition. Porgy and Bess returns to the repertoire from March 2010 until the following month, and it will be revived in its acclaimed WNO production. John Mauceri, Bernstein's pupil and celebrated film music arranger, will conduct the performances. As for the Italian tradition, Domingo's artistic choices fell on Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Verdi's Falstaff. Mozart also appears with Le Nozze di Figaro, replacing the shelved completion of Francesca Zambello's Ring Cycle. Further highlights include Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos with Iréne Theorin and Thomas's Hamlet, this latter in a new production from the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
In November, for two performances only, the company will present concert performances of Wagner's Götterdämmerung (in place of the planned staged production) featuring singers from WNO's Ring, including Alan Held, Gordon Hawkins, Gidon Saks, and Iréne Theorin. Heinz Fricke will conduct. And for one night only, on 1 May, Domingo himself will engage in a selection of Latin-language songs; this performance is intriguingly titled 'From My Latin Soul'. In addition, Domingo will take up the baton to conduct a concert featuring Olga Borodina and Ildar Abdrazakov, both famous for their roles at Mariinsky Theatre. This concert is organized by WNO and will take place at the Kennedy Center Opera House.
The new season runs from 12 September 2009 to 4 June 2010.
LA Opera presents more ambitious projects. Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore starring Rolando Villazón as Nemorino (alongside Ruggero Raimondi and Nathan Gunn) is an impressive start to the season, while recitals by Thomas Hampson (3 October) and Renee Fleming (12 December) complete a cast of divas and divos. Götterdämmerung is also on offer here, yet the LA Opera has managed to stage a new production starring John Treleaven, Alan Held, Eric Halfvarson, Linda Watson, Michelle DeYoung, Jill Grove and Gordon Hawkins. James Conlon will conduct the performances.
Among the new productions are Wagner's Siegfried and Handel's Tamerlano, the latter including Bejun Mehta in the title role and artistic director Domingo as Bajazet (in the Washington production: review here). Il barbiere di Siviglia, with Juan Diego Flórez as Count Almaviva and Joyce DiDonato as Rosina, completes the season.
Despite not traditionally being leading opera houses, WNO and LA Opera are able to offer a wide range of works and to present bold and original projects to the American and international audience.
Photo: Placido Domingo as Bajazet in Washington National Opera's Tamerlano from May 2008
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