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September 27, 2010

Placido Domingo will end his tenure as general director Washington National Opera in 2011

For months now, Washington National Opera has been the source of tantalizing reports and rumors. Late Monday, official word came about one of the matters being widely discussed: Placido Domingo will conclude his long tenure as general director June 30, 2011. Still up in the air is whether the company will be folded into the Kennedy Center in the future, as has been widely surmised. (Such a move would no doubt lead to  rethinking of the general director post.)

Domingo, the stellar tenor (and, lately, baritone), has been associated with the administration of WNO since 1996, when he was named artistic director. His title was upgraded to general director in 2003.

A statement released by WNO includes Domingo's remarks to the company's board of trustees on Monday: "For the last 14 seasons, I have had the great pleasure of leading the Washington National Opera. It has been a long and fruitful collaboration, and although I will continue to help the company artistically in any way possible, the current season — my fifteenth season with Washington National Opera — will be my last as General Director."

The fact that Domingo has spent several years as a bi-coastal administrator, serving concurrently as general director of the Los Angeles Opera, raised

concerns on both coasts. Although he never lacked for detractors when it came to running either opera company, his commitment, energy and imagination certainly won admirers as well. And, at least early on, he managed to make both communities feel he was part of them. Audiences routinely greeted him with affection.

Earlier this month, he extended his contract in L.A., where he just performed the world premiere of Daniel Catan's "Il Postino." (The more conservative WNO board has not show much interest in launching new operas.)

It is beyond doubt that Domingo gave WNO an artistic boost, attracting major vocal artists, including soprano Renee Fleming; expanding the company's repertoire; and developing a fine development program for young singers. During his tenure, the company started annual outdoor simulcasts on the National Mall and, recently, D.C.'s new baseball stadium.

In a press release, WNO president Kenneth R. Feinberg said: “We appreciate all that Plácido Domingo has done for our great company. He will be missed, but all good things must come to an end." ... While today’s news may mark the end of the formal marriage, we are looking forward to artistic collaborations in the future.”

Domingo is still scheduled to perform with the company this spring, singing in a production of Gluck's "Iphigénie en Tauride" and conducting performances of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" and Donizetti's "Don Pasquale."


Posted by Tim Smith at 5:10 PM | | Comments (0)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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