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The Washington National Opera (WNO) is an opera company in Washington, D.C.marker, USA. Formerly the Washington Opera, the company received Congressional designation as the National Opera Company in 2000. Performances are now given in the Opera House of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Artsmarker.

Plácido Domingo, the Spanishmarker tenor and conductor, has served as the company's General Director since 1996. Domingo began a affiliation with the Opera company in 1986, when he appeared in its world premiere production of Gian Carlo Menotti's Goya, followed by performances in a production of Tosca in the 1988/89 season. Maestro Domingo celebrated ten years as the Opera's General Director on July 1, 2006 and his contract has been extended through the 2010-2011 season. Parallel to Domingo's management of the company, he has been general manager of the Los Angeles Opera since 2001.

The Opera Society

The Washington National Opera was established in 1957 as the Opera Society of Washington by Day Thorpe, the music critic of the now defunct Washington Star. Paul Callaway, the choirmaster and organist of the Washington National Cathedralmarker, was its first music director. In the early years, the company presented opera in George Washington Universitymarker's Lisner Auditorium.

The Opera and Washington

Paul Callaway the choirmaster and organist of the Washington Cathedral was named the first music director. Some of the early contributors of both time and later financial assistance included David Lloyd Kreeger, who later became President of the Opera Board. Roger Stevens, as the Chairman of the Board of Kennedy Centermarker invited the Washington Opera into the Kennedy Centermarker where it remains today.

The late Martin Feinstein, one of the early directors of the Washington Opera, brought in many young singers, long before their first appearances at the Metropolitan Opera. His initiative began a Washington Opera tradition of cultivating young talent. Singers nurtured through the program include Jerry Hadley and Denyce Graves.

2009-2010 Season

Unlike the previous seasons that featured seven, or eight, operas as part of the subscription package, the 2009-2010 season offers only six operas. Those of distinctive note are Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos and Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet. As an add-on performance to the 2009-2010 season, Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung will be performed in concert.

Two among the planned operas, Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Porgy and Bess, were originally scheduled to be performed as part of the now defunct Baltimore Opera Company's 2008-2009 season. However, due to company's bankruptcy, the two operas were not staged and their performances were canceled.

Previous seasons of important new or unusual operas


In the 2008-2009 Season, WNO produced several important operas, including Gaetano Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia and Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes


In the 2007-2008 Season, WNO also produced three operas that are not staged often: William Bolcom's A View From the Bridge, G.F. Handel's Tamerlano, and Richard Strauss' Elektra.

The American Ring

The Washington National Opera originally announced plans to perform Der Ring Des Nibelungen, a cycle of four operas by Richard Wagner, entitled The American Ring, in November 2009. However, in early November 2008 in view of the nation's economic collapse, the company announced that the full cycle had been postponed. While the first three operas of the tetralogy have already been produced during the previous WNO seasons (Das Rheingold in 2006, Die Walküre in 2007, and Siegfried in 2009), the fourth opera, Götterdämmerung, will be given in a concert performance during the current 2009-2010 season.



  • Phillips-Matz, Mary Jane. Washington National Opera 1956 - 2006. Washington, D.C.: Washington National Opera, 2006. ISBN 0-9777037-0-3.

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