Tuesday, February 1, 2011

WNO 2011-2012 Season

Wait no longer, American opera fans. Here it is - the Washington National Opera 2011-2012 season:
* Tosca (1900)
* Lucia di Lammermoor (1835)
* Così Fan Tutte (1790)
* Nabucco (1842)
* Werther (1887; premiered 1892)

There's something peculiar yet familiar here. Just like their 2010-2011 season, there's nothing by an American composer. And nothing in English. And nothing written less than 100 years ago.

What exactly makes them Washington National Opera?

I can sympathize. We're (supposedly, slowly,) emerging from a recession. Opera is expensive, particularly when it's not pre-packaged. Conventional audiences, reliable yet dwindling, want their familiar Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi. But there is another audience, only partially overlapping, that will pay to see Adams, Heggie, and Weir. Or heck, at least some Britten and Menotti!

Previous decades in our capital saw works by Ginastera, Hindemith, Weill, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg. Our last American premiere was in 1999 (Sly, by Italian composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, b.1876). Our last world premiere was in 1993 (Dominick Argento's The Dream of Valentino) - 18 years ago!

Maybe I've just become spoiled by the excitement of recent seasons, since 2006 or so, but I am truly disappointed in WNO's last two offerings. Conservative budgets do not have to mean conservative programing choices. Other voices agree.

Be sure to catch Anne Midgette's comments on the season. Her brief summary also links to the L.A. Opera season; at least Plácido is bringing them some Britten, and the less-common Bánk Bán by Ferenc Erkel. (Ferenc who??)

The upcoming WNO/Kennedy Center affiliation (PDF) looks promising. Both president Michael Kaiser and Domingo seem supportive of this change. Will it revive a measure of the past year's "surprising" programing? Find out, dear reader, in February 2012!

("If we all do safe, boring work, we will lose our audiences and our donors. It is the big surprising projects that build visibility and, therefore, income." ~Kaiser, #5)


  1. I had similar thoughts when I read about the new season this morning. Some day, SOME DAY, opera will be cool again.

    Ok, no, probably not, but I can still dream, right?

  2. Wolf Trap is doing John Musto's new opera, The Inspector, in April. (loosely based on Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector, staged at CUA in 2005)

    Maybe that fills DC's "new opera" quota for the year?


  3. There was a time, not that long ago, when WNO would do one American work each season. This has been a tradition since the beginning. I saw some wonderful productions - Of Mice and Men, The Saint of Bleecker Street, Vanessa (One of my fav operas and they've produced it three times: 1963, 1994, 2002!), The Consul, Susannah, The Crucible, The Dangerous Liaisons, A View from the Bridge, Porgy & Bess, A Streetcar Named Desire, Sophie's Choose

    It was like clockwork - you could count on one a year. I hope this is only a temporary lull.


  4. I know! Looking over the past seasons, I was very surprised to hear about this second year in a row of "traditional"-only selections. But I am hopeful for the next year, following their move to the Kennedy Center!