Washington National Opera
Opera House at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts
Moby Dick, The Elixir of Love, The Magic Flute, Tristan and Isolde
The company’s 2014 season has a mix of both classics and contemporary works. Ranging from the famous The Magic Flute, to the innovative Moby Dick, the various operas on this year’s calendar ensure audience members experience a plethora of ranging emotions while watching them.
The company was established in 1957 by famous music critic Day Thorpe as the Opera Society of Washington. Thorpe hired the organist and choir master of the Washington National Cathedral, Paul Callaway as the company’s first music director, and the two set out to find funding and sponsorships for their new venture. Gregory and Peggy Smith were the new company’s first benefactors and provided ten thousand dollars to help the new company kickoff.
The company staged its first official production on 31st January 1957 at the Lisner Auditorium in George Washington University. It was a rendition of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serai and despite the limitations of the venue, it was well received by audience members and critics.
Building on their new found success, the company started staging productions more regularly and by 1961 it was recognized as one of the leading opera companies in the country.
However internal disputes over artistic differences and opera selections led to Paul Callaway’s resignation and the company changed its artistic direction. The change in direction, which also meant staging English operas was a success and the company slowly regained its standing as one of the best in the country.
In 1996, Paulo Domingo became the company’s general director and helped carry the company’s tradition of artistic excellence into the new millennium. During his tenure, Domingo transformed the nationally celebrated company into an internally acclaimed opera, as he worked with international artists, produced new works and broadcast the productions on radio and television.
As a result of the company’s solid reputation on the country, an official bill was passed in the United States Congress, which designated the company as the National Opera of the country. The company’s name was officially changed in February 2004. In 2011, after Domingo’s tenure ended, the John. F Kennedy Center for Performing Arts decided to adopt the Opera and is now responsible for the company’s well being.