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Friday, March 8, 2013

2013-14 Preview: Washington National Opera

Wagner and Verdi centennials at the Kennedy Center.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Whalers vs. capital: Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick (opening Feb. 22 2014)
highlight of the upcoming WNO season at the Kennedy Center. Image ©
With the Metropolitan Opera offering a Wagner-free 2013-14 schedule, it is left to opera companies in other cities to satisfy a yearning for music drama.  The Washington National Opera has stepped up. the company announced today that its first season under the stewardship of new Artistic Director Francesca Zambello will open Sept.15 with an imported production of Tristan und Isolde.

The production, first seen at Opera Australia in 1990 is directed by Neil Armfield, an experienced Australian director whose other current projects include a Ring Cycle for Melbourne. It stars Voigt, singing her first Isolde at the Kennedy Center. This is Ms. Voigt's first WNO appearance since a hugely successful 2010 run in Salome. The object of her affection is tenor Ian Storey as Tristan.
Philippe Auguin conducts.

Starting October 12, Ms. Zambello will direct Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, an epic of pursuit, obsession and revenge that cheerfully ignores the Aristotelean unities of conventional theater. With a plot that crosses international boundaries, depicting actual battlefields and conflicts of spiritual guilt, Forza is Verdi’s most difficult opera to present. Here. two alternating casts of talented young singers will take up the challenge.

For the holidays, Ms. Zambello will direct The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me, a new family-friendly nativity opera aimed at the younger set. (The opera is being advertised as re-telling the birth of Jesus “from the donkey’s point of view.”) It is the work of British composer Jeanine Tesori. The libretto is based on an award-winning children’s book. This new production opens Dec. 14.

The spring season opens with the eagerly awaited East Coast premiere of Jake Heggie’s opera Moby-Dick. Former bounty hunter and truck driver turned heroic tenor Carl Tanner nails his colors (and his doubloon) to the mast as the obsessed Captain Ahab. It sets sail Feb. 22.

Other operas in the spring include English language productions of L’Elisir d’Amore (in English, opening March 20) and The Magic Flute (opening May 3.) The Mozart opera will be next season’s Opera in the Outfield, an annual outdoor screening at nearby Nationals Park.

Fans of the operas of Richard Strauss, you should take note of scheduled concert performances at the Kennedy Center this year in commemoration of the composer’s 150th birthday. The National Symphony Orchestra performs excerpts from Salome and Elektra and a concert version of Der Rosenkavalier with Renée Fleming as the Marschallin. The NSO is also mounting a concert version of Act III Wagner’s Parsifal with Thomas Hampson’s acclaimed  portrayal of Amfortas, the suffering Grail King. It opens on Oct. 10. You’d be a fool to miss it.

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