Placido Domingo Takes Over Reins as Artistic Director

INTERVIEW

If the Washington Opera goes ahead with its purchase of the former Woodward & Lothrop building, the project will not be completed for another four years. That is exactly the term of Placido Domingo's contract as artistic director.

Putting aside discussion about his tenure with the company, in an interview Mr. Domingo preferred to preview his years ahead.

He will star in next season's opening production, Antonio Carlos Gomes' ''Il Guarany.'' The three weeks of performances will mark the centennial of the Brazilian composer's death and will be the first major American staging of the opera in a decade. Following that, the company will celebrate the 100th birthday of Puccini's ''La Boheme,'' with Gian Carlo Menotti conducting.

Promising a varied repertoire, Domingo plans 66 performances of seven operas - including four debuts - for the coming season. While there will be plenty of Strauss and Mozart, Domingo underscores the importance of American opera.

''I believe in the American composers very much,'' says the singer, conductor, and now artistic director who hails from Spain. ''It is a duty for the capital of the US, for Washington, to have American composers in every season.''

Domingo credits Washington for playing a crucial role in developing fledgling opera careers and expanding the art form. The Washington audience has been ''accepting the young artists coming from many parts of the world - a big percentage of American singers - who are virtually unknown.'' Promising that the opera will draw ''big names'' to Washington productions, he says its stage will be a springboard for promising new singers. ''This is the future,'' he says.

Domingo stresses the importance of ''keeping the art form fresh'' and alive by introducing new compositions to operagoers and attracting young people. ''The problem is,'' he laments, ''opera is expensive,'' and often not affordable to people in their teens and 20s. The lowest-priced ticket is in the $30 range. ''Just to raise the curtain every day costs a fortune.''

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