Our 2017-2018 Season Has Just Been Announced! — By Artistic Director Francesca Zambello

Click here for the full Kennedy Center new “classical” season announcement.

There are so many things I love deeply and passionately about our art form of opera. Opera can expose us to concepts we’ve never imagined before—it leads us to wrestle with ambiguity, multiple interpretations, and ideas that we can find soothing or jarring. Opera can be the launching pad to stimulate conversations about humanity—it can combat indifference, ignorance, and polarization. And opera can transport us from the day-to-day—showing us that its value does not lie in its utility.

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Spotlight on Robert Ainsley, Program Director of WNO’s American Opera Initiative and Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists

Before we dive into opera, tell us a little bit about yourself! When did you discover your love of the arts?

I grew up in a small city in the north of England with a lot of history – Durham, with its beautiful 1,000 –year-old Norman cathedral and castle. I was very academic and ‘nerdy’ through high school, and my big break came when I received a government scholarship to attend the private school in my hometown. Although my mum had paid for a few guitar lessons (she always harboured secret hopes that I would be the next Jimmy Page…), my first real musical experience came at 11, when the school provided me with free violin and piano lessons ‘in return’ for my singing treble in the chapel choir; it seemed like a good deal to me, and I never looked back.

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Daughters, Mothers, Warriors

wno_16-17_daughteroftheregiment_620xlongFrom the playbill for The Daughter of the Regiment

by Kelley Rourke, WNO Dramaturg

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Much of the humor and suspense of Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment concerns the title character’s lack of “feminine” influence. Can a young girl brought up on the battlefield ever take her place in polite society?

For some legendary women warriors, the call to military service crowded out any other desire. Joan of Arc took a vow of chastity as a teenager and successfully petitioned against an arranged marriage. When she was captured and tried, the charges against her ranged from heresy to dressing like a man. Joan is perhaps the most notorious—but far from the only—cross-dressing patriot. In our country, Deborah Sampson served for three years in the Revolutionary War under the name “Robert Shirtliffe,” and once cut a musket ball out of her own thigh to avoid having her deceit discovered by a doctor.

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The Marriage of Figaro: Reading List!

For Further Exploration

The Figaro Trilogy: The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, The Guilty Mother (Oxford World’s Classics)
Figaro, one of opera’s most enduring characters, sprang from the imagination of French playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. Translated by David Coward, this volume includes source materials for the beloved operas by Rossini and Mozart.

Improbable Patriot
Not content with being a master watchmaker and plotter of plays, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais conceived and carried out a plan to aid the rebellious American colonists in 1776. Harlow Giles Unger tells the fascinating life story of the man who brought us Figaro and friends.

The Mozart-Da Ponte Operas
Mozart wrote his three most enduring operas in collaboration with Lorenzo Da Ponte. Andrew Steptoe explores the cultural and social context in which they were written, the practicalities of opera production in the time, and the place the works hold in the creators’ artistic development.

The Librettist of Venice
Rodney Bolt tells the story of Lorenzo Da Ponte, “Mozart’s Poet, Casanova’s Friend, and Italian Opera’s Impresario in America.” Read more

A Timeless Mirror: Finding Ourselves within “The Marriage of Figaro”

WNO_16-17_MarriageofFigaro_620x349_v2From the playbill for The Marriage of Figaro

by Kelley Rourke, WNO Dramaturg

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Spoiler alert: No one dies in The Marriage of Figaro.

In an art form teeming with over-the-top offenders, the characters in The Marriage of Figaro seem slightly tame—more Downton Abbey than True Crime. But the lack of superheroes and supervillains is precisely what makes Mozart and Da Ponte’s comedy of manners so compelling. The emotional life of the household first imagined by the playwright Beaumarchais raises our ire, splits our sides, breaks our hearts, and sends us out of the theater with recognition of—and hope for—our shared humanity.

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Revolutionary Writers: Beaumarchais and Da Ponte

D'après Jean-Marc Nattier, Portrait de Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (BMCF)

D’après Jean-Marc Nattier, Portrait de Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (BMCF)

From the playbill for The Marriage of Figaro

by Kelley Rourke, WNO Dramaturg

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“Because you are a great lord, you believe that you are a great genius! You took the trouble to be born, no more. You remain an ordinary enough man!”

The social architecture of the 18th century put many obstacles in the path of an ambitious young man like Pierre Augustin Caron (1732–1799); at the same time, it served as the scaffolding for his climb. The playwright who gave us Figaro, the ultimate jack-of-all-trades, lived a life bursting with adventures and accomplishments, as did the Italian poet who would adapt his Le Mariage de Figaro into one of our most beloved operas.

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Ermonela Jaho | Meet the Artists

Soprano. Cio-Cio-San in Madame Butterfly.


Ermonela Jaho headshot 1

Ermonela was born in Albania, and is a graduate of Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.

This performance marks the talent’s WNO debut, although she has already wowed audiences around the world in the role of Cio-Cio-San—from London to Paris to Berlin.

A notable moment: Ermonela worked very hard to become an internationally acclaimed soprano. After entering a conservatory at 17, she was invited to study in Italy. At the end of her two-month study trip, Ermonela was determined to stay in Italy because it “is the home of bel canto,” and because Albania restricted her access to foreign operas. To continue pursuing her art—and to afford her new life in Italy—she became an au pair and lived in a hostel run by nuns.

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Arthur Woodley | Meet the Artists

Bass. Emile in Champion.


ARTHUR WOODLEY headshot 2

Arthur was born in New York City and raised in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

He originated the role of Emile Griffith in the premiere of Champion at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis to critical acclaim.

Fun fact! Arthur traveled the world as a student of opera. After spending two years at New York City Community College, he moved to Bologna, Italy to study at Giovanni Battista Martini Conservatory. There, he sang in an Italian rock band on the side! After leaving Italy, Arthur returned to New York City to finish his studies at Mannes College of Music.

Arthur’s most notable roles include Porgy in Porgy and Bess, Varlaam in Boris Godunov, Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro, Banquo in Macbeth, Rocco in Fidelio, and Dick Hallorann in the world premiere of The Shining, based on the novel by Stephen King.

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Aubrey Allicock | Meet the Artists

Bass-baritone. Young Emile in Champion.


Aubrey_Allicock_print

Aubrey grew up in Tuscon, Arizona and originally discovered singing at church. After high school, he attended Grand Canyon University for his undergraduate degree, Indiana University for graduate school, and was a member of The Juilliard School‘s Artist Diploma in Opera Studies program.

This performance is Aubrey’s WNO debut.

Aubrey spent over seasons with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. His first part—while a member of the Gerdine Young Artist program—was as a customs official in La bohème. With each season, his roles grew and ranged from Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin to the Mad Hatter in the U.S. premiere of Alice in Wonderland.

Fun fact! In 2013, Aubrey originated the role of Young Emile at his beloved Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. The bass-baritone deeply connected with his character, saying, “I feel like the role was written for me.”

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Dimitri Pittas | Meet the Artists

Tenor. Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly.


Dimitri Pittas headshot

A native of Queens, New York, Dimitri is a graduate of The Metropolitan Opera‘s Lindemann Young Artist Development program.

This production marks Dimitri’s WNO debut as well as his debut in the role of Pinkerton.

Some of Dimitri’s most notable roles include Rodolfo in La bohème, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, Macduff in Macbeth, the title role in Don Carlo, and Nemorino in The Elixir of Love.

Fun fact! The life of an opera singer is unlike any other. It’s unpredictable and nonstop and exciting—and this story from Dimitri encapsulates it perfectly. This year, while preparing to travel to Virginia from South Carolina for Passover, Dimitri received a call asking him to replace an ill tenor in an Opera Philadelphia production of The Elixir of Love. Always ready for the stage, Dimitri was forced to forgo his family trip and travel to Philadelphia instead. With only days to rehearse before the premiere, Dimitri saved the day. 

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