Tenor Placido Domingo to Let Contract at Washington National Opera Expire

Placido Domingo Decides Not to Extend Contract as Director of the
Washington National Opera

By Anne Midgette
     Sept. 27 (Washington Post) -- Famed tenor Plácido Domingo
said Monday that he will not renew his contract as general
director of the Washington National Opera.
     His contract expires in June 2011. His departure means that
the company is left without a marquee leader, its most
recognizable brand, at a time when nearly every detail of the
WNO's future is open to question -- most importantly, whether it
will remain autonomous or merge with the Kennedy Center.
     Domingo, 69, who has been associated with the opera for 14
years, announced his decision via conference call to the WNO
board at a meeting Monday morning, speaking from Los Angeles,
where he is also general director of the Los Angeles Opera. He is
currently singing there in the starring role in the new opera "Il
Postino" and conducting "Marriage of Figaro."
     "Over the years, I have had the great satisfaction to
witness the rapid transformation of Washington National Opera
from an exciting opera company into an internationally celebrated
one," Domingo wrote in a letter sent to members of the board
after the meeting. "As I come to the end of my tenure at
Washington National Opera, I think it is time for the company to
go in new directions, including studying the possibility of a
merger with the Kennedy Center. And you can rest assured that I
will do everything I can to help during this, my last year as
General Director."
     Domingo became artistic director of WNO in 1996, and has
served as general director since 2003. His tenure is commonly
said to have lifted the Washington National Opera to a new level,
bringing in more international stars and big-name productions
(José Carreras in Wolf-Ferrari's "Sly," Mirella Freni singing
opposite Domingo in "Fedora," a nationally televised "Pagliacci"
starring Domingo and directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Renée Fleming
in "Lucrezia Borgia"). And his commitment to American opera meant
that WNO presented the second or third productions of a number of
important works: Maw's "Sophie's Choice," Bolcom's "A View from
the Bridge," Previn's "A Streetcar Named Desire."
     Under Domingo, however, the company moved away from the
quirky distinctiveness that had characterized it under his
predecessor, Martin Feinstein. And all of the big names came at a
cost. The company has never quite managed to get its financial
house in order, and Domingo's frequent absences, as he maintained
an active singing and conducting career, while also running the
Los Angeles Opera, didn't help the causes either of fund-raising
or of administrative stability.
     By all accounts, it was a fond farewell. Domingo promised to
honor all of his commitments to WNO, including returning next
season to conduct, and said he hoped that WNO would invite him
back to sing or to conduct.
     "Marta and I are honored to have found so many friends in
Washington," he said, referring to his wife, "and we both hope
this friendship will last forever."
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