Washington National Opera

June 2, 2011

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.

The Music Center at Strathmore


Among many offerings, there are:

Hilary Hahn performs this Sunday at 4 p.m.
February 27

Itzhak Perlman comes to town with Rohan de Silva on piano.
May 1

Bryan Adams and his “Bare Bones Tour”
March 11

Comic writer David Sedaris
March 31

Jazz songstress Nancy Wilson
April 22

National Gallery of Art


Gauguin: Maker of Myth
February 27–June 5, 2011

Gauguin (1848–1903) was one of the most traveled artists in history, and it showed up in his work. His colorful images of Brittany and the islands of the South Seas are some of the most striking, distinct works of the last 200 years. His travels will be on display in nearly 120 works by Gauguin in the first major look at the artist’s oeuvre in the United States since the NGA’s retrospective of the artist in 1988–1989. The exhibition, organized by Tate Modern, London, brings together an eclectic breadth of self-portraits, genre pictures, still lifes, and landscapes from throughout the artist’s career. It includes not only oil paintings but also pastels, prints, drawings, sculpture, and decorated functional objects.

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Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals
February 20–May 30, 2011

Venice inspired a school of competitive painters, who focused on the land, sea and cityscapes of the Bride of the Sea, resulting in a remarkable achievement in 18th-century art. This exhibition celebrates the rich variety of these Venetian views, known as vedute, through some 20 masterworks by Canaletto and more than 30 by his rivals. The painters depicted the famous monuments and vistas of Venice in different moods and seasons.

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In the Tower: Nam June Paik
March 13 – October 2

Paik (1932–2006) is a towering figure in contemporary art. Born in Korea and trained in Japan and Germany in aesthetics and music, Paik settled in New York in 1964 and quickly became a pioneer in the integration of art with technology and performance. Considered by many to be the first video artist, this exhibition features a selection from Paik’s estate as well as from the Gallery’s own collection. The centerpiece is One Candle, Candle Projection (1988–2000), one of the artist’s simplest, most dynamic works. Each morning a candle is lit and a video camera follows its progress, casting its flickering, magnified, processed image onto the walls in myriad projections.

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Gabriel Metsu 1629–1667
April 17–July 24, 2011

One of the most important Dutch genre painters of the mid-17th century, Gabriel Metsu (1629–1667) could capture ordinary moments of life with freshness and spontaneity. Although his career was relatively short, Metsu enjoyed great success as a genre painter, but also for his religious scenes, still lifes, and portraits. The show will feature some 35 paintings by the artist. [gallery ids="99609,105052" nav="thumbs"]

The Shakespeare Theater


Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband”
March 8 – April 10
Oscar Wilde will get the full treatment by the Shakespeare Theater Company under the veteran and able direction of Keith Baxter. The threat of scandal, an obsession during Victorian times, buzzes over an upstanding and rising aristocratic type in this Wilde gambol through British social mores.

“Old Times”
May 17 – July 3

The National Portrait Gallery


Calder’s Portraits: A New Language
March 11-August 14, 2011

Most people recognize Calder (1898-1976) for his grandly ambitious, larger-than-life mobiles, like the one hanging in the main plaza of the NGA’s East Wing, or the “Calder Room” in the same building. What many people don’t know is that Calder was also a prolific portrait artist. Throughout his career Calder portrayed entertainment, sports, and art-world figures, including Josephine Baker, Babe Ruth, and Charles Lindbergh to name a few. Calder worked largely in wire, which he shaped into three-dimensional portraits of considerable character and nuance. Suspended from the wall or ceiling, the portraits are free to move. The movement gives the subjects a life of their own.

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Capital Portraits: Treasures from Washington Private Collections
April 8 – September 5, 2011

This exhibition presents portraits that reside in private Washington, DC collections. Many of the works have never been on public display before and the exhibition reveals a remarkable range of styles, images and perhaps most importantly, stories. Works included are by major artists such as John Singleton Copley, Mary Cassatt, and Andy Warhol.

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150th Commemoration of the Civil War: The Death of Ellsworth
April 29, 2011 – March 18, 2012

On the site of a former Union hospital, the National Portrait Gallery will mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War through a series of four alcove exhibitions—one each year—commemorating this period of American history. The first of these exhibitions recounts the death of Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth in Alexandria, VA. Ellsworth was a friend of Abraham Lincoln and the first Union officer to be killed in the war.

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One Life: Ronald Reagan
July 1, 2011 – May 28, 2012

If you have seen the One Life: Katherine Graham, you don’t need to be told that this is bound to be a small gem of a pictorial biography, with both historical, social and emotional power for anyone who ever cared about Reagan, one way or the other.

The Studio Theater


“New Ireland: The Enda Walsh Festival”
March 15 – April 25
Featuring the works of acclaimed Irish playwright Enda Walsh, the festival brings back the Druid Theater Company with its production of Walsh’s “Penelope.” The festival is new artistic director David Muse’s effort to broaden Studio’s international reach and includes productions by the Studio Theater of Walsh’s “The Walworth Farce” and “The New Electric Ballroom.” Walsh herself will be on hand, along with Tony-winning director Garry Hynes. There are readings, plays, films and a daylong symposium on New Irish arts.

“Venus in Fur”
Opening May 25

WNO Welcomes Francesca Zambello, Artistic Advisor


The momentous recent times of change at the Washington National Opera just saw another one or two big changes about to materialize.

First Mark Weinstein, the Executive Director of the WNO, left during the 2009-2010 season. Then Placido Domingo, the bread-and-butter star power of the WNO, announced his resignation, effective at the end of this season (but not, it should be added, without delivering an assured star turn in the spring production of “Iphigenie en Tauride”).

Then the WNO announced that the company would become an affiliate of the Kennedy Center, where it has performed almost always at the Opera House, barring periods of renovation.

Now the WNO announced that the dynamic and gifted opera and theater director Francesca Zambello would become its Artistic Advisor. That’s a few steps short of actually being the Artistic Director. For now she will be working with others, including the KC President Michael Kaiser, as well as WNO officials, including Michael L. Mael who was appointed Executive Director in May. He was previously the WNO’s Chief Operating Officer.

That might mean that there will be a bit of the old breath of fresh air and more contemporary and cutting edge works on the horizon with Zambello placed in a critical role.

Zambello, a very busy woman these days already, has always had eclectic and diverse ambitions and tastes—and she’s not shy about trying new things. These days, she is currently the Artistic and General Director of the Glimmerglass Festival, and she holds an Artistic Advisor role at the San Francisco Opera, where she is directing the “Ring Cycle” next month.

Doubtless, Wagner and the cycle may get a new life in the future, after plans had to be abandoned at the WNO in recent years.

Zambello, by her track record, is always seeking new challenges, and in fact provided some of the more contemporary work seen at the WNO, where she’s been a familiar figure ever since she directed “Of Mice and Men” in 2001. She’s tackled Wagner before here with “Das Reingold,” “Die Walkure” and “Siegfried,” as well as material as different as “Porgy and Bess,” “Billy Budd,” “Fidelio” and last year’s scintillating “Salome.”

Zambello has staged plays on Broadway, including the musical “The Littlest Mermaid,” and directed in venues as varied as the Sydney Festival, the Bregenz Festival, Disneyland, Berlin’s Theater des Westens, and Vienna’s Raimund Theater. She has also staged opera and theater productions at the Met, Teatro alla Scala, the Bolshoi, Covent Garden, the Munich Staatsoper, the Paris Opera, the New York City Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the English National Opera.

By the awards she’s received, you can get a pretty good picture of her eclecticism: she’s been awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government as well as the Russian Federation’s Medal for Service to Culture. She has received three Olivier Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, two French Grand Prix des Critiques, the Helpmann Award and the Palme d’Or in Germany.

She was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that her role at the WNO would include: “Addressing how to make opera more a part of the city at large.”

Welcome, Zambello.

Russell Allen Feted

June 1, 2011

Members of the Women’s Committee of the Washington Ballet partied at Maziar Farvar’s Peacock Café in Georgetown to celebrate outgoing Executive Director Russell Allen and his successful years at the Ballet. The party on May 24 was organized by Sally Francis and former TWC President Beth Kohlhoss. The ladies enthusiastically toasted Russell and presented him with an engraved silver card case from Tiffany. Despite scarcer funding for the arts, Russell leaves the Ballet with stronger earned revenue. Guests were delighted to hear that he plans to remain in this area. [gallery ids="99858,99859,99860,99861,99862,99863" nav="thumbs"]

Rigoletto Presented at the Italian Embassy


In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata and his staff made the embassy available for a presentation of Rigoletto on May 21 featuring The Opera Camerata of Washington Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Gregory Buchalter and directed by Roger Riggle. José Sacia, Elisabeth Turchi and Jesus Hernandez took leading roles. In his enthusiastic remarks, Executive Director Michael J. Reilly acknowledged diplomatic dignitaries and said “opera is cool, modern, stimulating. You will leave humming and tapping your feet with wonderful young singers.” The cast sang Happy Birthday to Countess Gertrude d’Amecourt and Princess Selene Obolensky, who beamed in the front row. [gallery ids="99849,99850,99851,99852,99853,99854,99855,99856,99857" nav="thumbs"]

Biz Group Meeting a Big Hit, Thanks to Dean & Deluca

May 20, 2011

The Georgetown Business Association held its monthly meeting, May 18, at one of D.C.’s oldest marketplaces, which has housed one of Georgetown’s high-end food and wine businesses, Dean & Deluca, for almost two decades. At the sidewalk patio, GBA members and guests had a lively time, meeting old and new colleagues and sampling fine fare. GBA president Joe Giannino mentioned how the group held a zoning seminar among other business talks. People lingered longer at the Dean & Deluca sidewalk, as they were also greeted by newly sworn-in At-Large Councilman Vincent Orange. “I am at large, so I am here,” said Orange, who also thanked “The Georgetowner and The Downtowner for getting it right” by endorsing him before the special election. [gallery ids="99765,99766,99767,106144" nav="thumbs"]