Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Washington Opera Positions Itself for Higher Profile Plans Are Afoot for a Major Expansion of Both Facilities and Repertoire

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Washington Opera Positions Itself for Higher Profile Plans Are Afoot for a Major Expansion of Both Facilities and Repertoire

Article excerpt

The Washington Opera, now in its 40th year, has dreamed of becoming one of the top companies in the United States.

Last month, it took a big step in that direction by signing on superstar tenor Placido Domingo as its artistic director (see interview below). Now, the opera is trying to buy its own hall. The move, combined with the leadership of Mr. Domingo, could catapult the company onto the world stage.

Like other operas throughout the world, this one is grappling with the need to develop a bigger following and keep expenses and ticket prices down.

Having its own home could advance that agenda. The company has set its sights on the grand old Woodward & Lothrop building, a landmark in downtown Washington. The nine-story building served as the flagship location for Washington's top department-store chain, fondly called Woodies, before it went out of business late last year.

District of Columbia officials are anxious for the opera to relocate there. They are hoping that it will reestablish a vibrant night life in a once crime-ridden area. They point to city councils in Cleveland, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Seattle that have demonstrated that bringing arts activities back heightens the demand for parking, concessions, restaurants, and shops.

When the opera company began, it used George Washington University's concert hall; more recently it has been renting space from the Kennedy Center, the nation's bustling performing-arts arena. Scheduling has been tight, as the opera must share the center's halls with assorted music and theater groups.

But there is no shortage of interest in the music. The company plays to a near sell-out crowd (largely through subscriptions).

If it fails to make a successful bid at the Woodies auction, set for the third week in March, the opera will not give up its search for its own space, according to Patricia Mossel, the company's executive director.

In the meantime, Ms. Mossel and her colleagues have already had the blueprints drawn up. In her windowless office in the attic of the Kennedy Center, she eagerly shares them. In the plans, the rococo shell of the building would be preserved, but its innards would be gutted in order to accommodate a stage big enough to perform full-scale productions, rehearsal space, makeup rooms, suites of offices ("with windows" Mossel beams), a top-floor restaurant, and more. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.