Washington Nat'l Opera Sept. 12 Opening Broadcast Free at Nationals Ballpark; Season Casting Announced

Classic Arts Features   Washington Nat'l Opera Sept. 12 Opening Broadcast Free at Nationals Ballpark; Season Casting Announced
The company kicks off its 54th season Sept. 12 with a revival of The Barber of Seville starring Lawrence Brownlee as the Count. This performance will be simulcast free to an estimated 25,000 fans in a festive ballpark atmosphere.


This marks the second FREE Opera in the Outfield event, which welcomes members of the public to take in the live performance free of charge and engage in a variety of "pre-game" activities.

"I am especially pleased that this year, WNO will simulcast The Barber of Seville, the most popular comic opera of all time," said General Director Plácido Domingo. "This opera is undoubtedly one of the very best operas for young people, families and first-time opera-goers. I invite the entire city to join us!"

This simulcast of The Barber of Seville: the Opening Night of WNO's 54th season: will be broadcast live in high definition from the Kennedy Center Opera House to the Washington Nationals' state-of-the-art HD scoreboard. The National Park scoreboard is among the largest in the country, measuring 4,811 square feet. The simulcast is directed by Bruce Bryant, with video production by Staging Solutions, Inc.

"Fans" are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy a "ballpark atmosphere," complete with concessions, games and prizes. Seating will be available throughout the Park, including on the outfield and in the stands. Prizes, giveaways and raffle items include opera packages, an evening at Nationals Park, a Target shopping spree and additional take-home gifts from sponsors. ABC 7/WJLA TV weekend anchor Horace Holmes will emcee the event.



Full productions include: Rossini's The Barber of Seville, Verdi's Falstaff, Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, the revival of WNO's acclaimed production of The Gershwins Porgy and Bess, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet, a WNO company premiere.

General Director Plácido Domingo also unveiled new concerts for 2009 including Mo. Domingo leading internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina and her husband, bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov, in a rare appearance together, and WNO Music Director Heinz Fricke conducting two concert performances of Wagner's Götterdämmerung, featuring the original cast from WNO's Ring.


Rossini's The Barber of Seville: WNO Revival
Eight performances, September 12 through 20, 2009. In Italian with English supertitles.

The season opens with the Rossini's beloved comic opera. Based on the first play in French playwright Beaumarchais' Figaro trilogy, the opera tells a story of love, jealousy, treachery and disguise. When Count Almaviva falls in love with the lovely Rosina, he wishes to make her love him for love's sake. The barber, Figaro, works tirelessly to help the love-struck Count wrest Rosina from her impending marriage to her guardian, Dr. Bartolo. The result is complete chaos as the characters disguise and transform themselves in hilarious efforts to hoodwink and confuse each other. The opera features some of the best-known music in the operatic repertoire, including the rousing overture and Figaro's aria, the "Largo al factotum," made famous by the iconic line "Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!"

Making his Washington National Opera debut as Count Almaviva is tenor Lawrence Brownlee, whose 2007 Metropolitan Opera debut in the same role was hailed as "brilliant" (Opera News) and full of "infectious energy" (The New York Times). Juan Francisco Gatell performs the Count on certain dates. Also making their WNO debuts in this production are Italian baritone Marco Caria, who shares the role of Figaro with Simone Alberghini, and Spanish mezzo-soprano Silvia Tro Santafé, a Rossini specialist, sharing the role of Rosina with Ketevan Kemoklidze. Acclaimed buffo bass Donato DiStefano shares the role of Dr. Bartolo with WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program alumnus Valeriano Lanchas, with Eric Owens and Grigory Soloviov switching off as Don Basilio, Dr. Bartolo's accomplice. This WNO revival is directed by David Gately and conducted by Italian Michele Mariotti and American Joseph Mechavich, with both conductors making their WNO debuts.

Verdi's Falstaff: production from Los Angeles Opera
Seven performances, October 10 through 30, 2009. In Italian with English supertitles.

In his final opera, Verdi moved away from the dramas for which he is best known and instead turned to humor. The result was Falstaff, a comedic melding of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV. Sir John Falstaff, Shakespeare's patently offensive yet beloved knight, is a drunkard who finds himself suddenly poor. He seeks to remedy his financial woes by wooing two wealthy women, Alice Ford and Meg Page. When the ladies discover that they are being played for fools, they band together with the help of their friend, Mistress Quickly, to dupe Falstaff. Hilarity ensues in this ensemble work, with disguises, mistaken identities and cunning ruses accented by some of Verdi's most inventive melodies.

Alan Opie stars in the title role. The ensemble cast features Tim Mix in his WNO debut as Ford. Also in her WNO debut is American soprano Tamara Wilson as Alice Ford. American mezzo-sopranos Elizabeth Bishop and Nancy Maultsby are Meg Page and Mistress Quickly, respectively, and rounding out the cast are British tenor Robin Leggate as Dr. Caius and WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program alumnus Yingxi Zhang (China, tenor) as Fenton. German conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing makes his WNO debut leading this production.

Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos: Production from Seattle Opera
Eight performances, October 24 through November 13, 2009. In German with English supertitles.

Richard Strauss' two-act opera weaves a tale of off-stage drama with an on-stage love story: When two groups of entertainers: one a troupe of comedians and the other an opera company: arrive at a Vienna party, there is no time for both performances. When it is decided that the companies shall present their works at the same time, tragedy and comedy collide as they join together to perform the Greek myth of Ariadne, who, abandoned by Theseus, mourns alone on the island of Naxos. But as the opera singers try to convey the gravity of Ariadne's plight, the comedians, led by Zerbinetta, try mightily to cheer her. In one of the most virtuosic coloratura arias in the operatic repertoire, Zerbinetta sings that one must be open to love. Ariadne is saved from her solitude by the god Bacchus, who falls in love with her, thus reinforcing Zerbinetta's philosophy. With stunning melodies, relentless energy and poignant characters, Ariadne auf Naxos is one of Strauss' enduring gems.

Acclaimed Swedish soprano Iréne Theorin sings the role of Prima Donna/Ariadne. Swedish tenor Pär Lindskog, who will make his WNO debut as Siegfried in Spring 2009, shares the role of Bacchus with British tenor Ian Storey. Russian soprano Lyubov Petrova, hailed for her mastery of Zerbinetta, returns to sing the role, and mezzo-soprano Kristine Jepson sings the "trouser role" of the Composer, and WNO Music Director Maestro Heinz Fricke conducts.

The Gershwins Porgy and Bess: WNO Revival
Twelve performances, March 20 through April 3, 2010. In English with English supertitles.

With classics such as "Summertime" and "Bess, You is My Woman Now," the Gershwins melded jazz, folk and blues to craft the iconic American opera. Porgy and Bess is a tragic tale about the crippled Porgy, who is in love with Bess and tries hopelessly to rescue her from her sad life. The 1935 work was innovative not only in the masterful rendering of a complex and eclectic score, but also for its subject matter: a deeply moving depiction of African-American life in the 1920s South.

Directed by the acclaimed American director Francesca Zambello, WNO's highly praised production returns to Washington for 12 performances, featuring an all-star double cast led by bass-baritones Eric Owens and Lester Lynch as Porgy, and sopranos Morenike Fadayomi and Indira Mahajan as Bess, with famed conductor John Mauceri on the podium. Terry Cook is Bess' pimp, Crown, with soprano Alyson Cambridge as Clara. Jermaine Smith and Daniel Beaty share the role of the drug dealer Sportin' Life. Several cast members who made their company debuts in WNO's original production return for this revival, among them Ms. Fadayomi and Ms. Mahajan (Bess), Lester Lynch (Crown in 2005 production), Jermaine Smith (Sportin' Life), Alyson Cambridge (Clara) and Terry Cook (Crown).

Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
Nine performances, April 24 through May 7, 2010. In Italian with English supertitles.

French playwright Beaumarchais' Figaro trilogy continues with Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Having happily married Rosina, now the Countess, Count Almaviva's palace holds a tangled web of love affairs. The pageboy Cherubino courts the Countess while the Count pursues the maidservant Susanna who is betrothed to Figaro, who is being stalked by Marcellina _ã_ and so the maze of amorous intrigue unfolds. With its near-flawless blend of musical and stage elements: delightful ensemble roles, beloved melodies and a fully-formed dramatic arch: some consider The Marriage of Figaro the most perfect opera ever created, and Mozart's crowning operatic achievement.

Leading the cast are Russian bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov as Figaro and New Zeal with baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Count Almaviva, with Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova as the Countess. Argentinean soprano Veronica Cangemi sings Susanna and Canadian mezzo-soprano Michéle Losier is Cherubino. Recent Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program graduate Trevor Scheunemann sings two performances as Count Almaviva, and French conductor Patrick Fournillier makes his WNO debut with this production.

Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet - Company premiere, production from Lyric Opera of Kansas City
May 19 through June 4, 2010. In French with English supertitles.

Washington National Opera's 54th season concludes with French composer Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet, a WNO company premiere. Based on a French adaptation of Shakespeare's play, the opera Hamlet stays true to the gripping tragedy, and the musically and dramatically virtuosic roles of Hamlet and Ophelia serve as stunning vehicles for the baritone and soprano.

The production features an internationally acclaimed cast, conducted by Plácido Domingo and directed by Thaddeus Strassberger in his WNO debut. World-renowned Spanish baritone Carlos Álvarez leads the cast as Hamlet, with acclaimed German soprano Diana Damrau in her WNO and role debut as Ophelia. The incomparable bass Samuel Ramey sings Claudius, with mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop as Queen Gertrude and tenor John Tessier as Laertes.

Visit WNO for further information and tickets.


Washington National Opera is recognized as one of the world's premier opera companies. Under the leadership of Plácido Domingo since 1996, WNO has moved confidently forward since the company's founding in 1956. Over five decades, WNO has achieved the stature of a world-class company and plays to standing-room-only audiences at The Kennedy Center Opera House. In 2004, the company changed its name to Washington National Opera to reflect its increasingly significant role in the national arts scene and fulfill its 2000 Congressional designation as the "national opera."

WNO is committed to sustaining new American opera; the company has presented numerous world, American and company premieres. The Opera also mounts the crucial second productions of new works to expand the operatic repertory.

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