WNO announces a cautious return to opera in 2021-22 season

Thu May 13, 2021 at 12:01 pm
By Charles T. Downey

Isabel Leonard will star in Bizet’s Carmen in May of 2022, Washington National Opera’s sole fully staged opera of the 2021-22 season. Photo: Karen Almond/Dallas Opera

Washington National Opera will present a slimmed-down opera slate in the 2021-2022 season, the company announced Thursday. Staged productions will not return to the Kennedy Center until March 2022, with concert performances only in the fall and winter of this year.

WNO opens the season with a musical tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the company’s most ardent supporters. For that season-opening event, the full orchestra and WNO Chorus will join principal conductor Evan Rogister in concert performances of scenes from Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, Verdi’s Nabucco, and Wagner’s Tannhäuser, among others (November 6 to 14). Soprano Alexandria Shiner, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, and tenor Lawrence Brownlee will return in principal roles, accompanied by soprano Pretty Yende, tenor David Butt Philip, and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn in their WNO debuts.

The first two productions of the season will be staged in the Eisenhower Theater, beginning with four new short operas billed together as Written in Stone, conducted by Robert Spano in his company debut. Mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges and baritone Rod Gilfry will headline the cast (yet to be announced) for these works composed by Alicia Hall Moran, Huang Ruo, Kamala Sankaram, and Carlos Simon. The stories concern some of the city’s stone monuments and the legacy of President John F. Kennedy, marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Kennedy Center (March 5 to 25, 2022).

Running in repertory that month in the Eisenhower Theater will be a new production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, directed by Alison Moritz and conducted by Erina Yashima, assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The orchestra will be seated on stage, according to the press release (the Eisenhower’s small pit seats only 35), and will be incorporated into the action. Laura Wilde, Rhiab Chaieb, Kang Wang, and Andrey Zhilikhovsky star as the quartet of mixed lovers, with Ana María Martínez and Eric Owens co-starring as Despina and Don Alfonso (March 12 to 26).

Audiences will have to wait until the end of the season for the full experience of a staged grand opera in the Kennedy Center Opera House. That will be Bizet’s Carmen (May 14 to 28). Artistic director Francesca Zambello directs, adapting a production originally created by Opera Australia. Evan Rogister conducts a cast starring Isabel Leonard (Carmen), Michael Fabiano (Don José), Ryan Speedo Green (Escamillo), and Vanessa Vasquez (Micaëla).

Other small-scale performances dot the season, including a recital by Frederick Ballentine, this year’s recipient of the Marian Anderson Vocal Award (December 7).

A date for tickets to go on sale was not announced Thursday. kennedy-center.org

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