Aretha Franklin, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Jordan Donica Sign on for WNO Opera Gala

Aretha Franklin, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Jordan Donica Sign on for WNO Opera Gala

Washington National Opera (WNO) today announces additional performers for its star-studded 2017 WNO Opera Gala, Trading Voices, celebrating WNO Board Chairman Jacqueline Badger Mars, on Saturday, June 3, 2017, in the Kennedy Center Opera House.

Just added to the lineup for the Gala Concert are legendary Queen of Soul and Kennedy Center Honoree Aretha Franklin, Tony-winning Broadway luminary Brian Stokes Mitchell, and current Hamilton star Jordan Donica.

They will join superstar mezzo-soprano and D.C. native Denyce Graves, Hamilton Tony Award winner Leslie Odom Jr., and, in a special guest appearance, iconic soprano Renée Fleming.

The WNO Orchestra will be conducted by WNO Music Director Philippe Auguin and Steven Mercurio in his WNO debut.

These stars will all pay tribute to Jacqueline Mars's visionary leadership of WNO; the unique format of Trading Voices will feature the opera singers performing popular songs and the pop singers performing opera arias. The Concert will also feature a new short film that demonstrates both the relevance of opera and how much of the operatic repertoire is present in everyday life.

The WNO Opera Gala is presented as part of JFKC, the Kennedy Center's season-long celebration of John F. Kennedy's centennial, and explores the themes of service and gratitude, which are often associated with President Kennedy. The Co-Chairmen of the WNO Opera Gala are WNO Life Chairman Mrs. Eugene B. Casey and Mrs. John F. Mars. The Opera Gala pays tribute to Jacqueline Badger Mars for her six seasons of leadership of the WNO Board of Trustees. Highlights of her tenure include the founding of the American Opera Initiative, which for the last five seasons has helped identify the brightest rising American composers and librettists and has added their work to the repertory; the programming of an annual opera for families at the holiday season, including Hansel and Gretel, The Little Prince, and the world premiere commission of The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me; and the presentation of WNO's first-ever complete Ring cycles in 2016, a feat that put WNO into a very elite group of American opera companies.

The Opera Gala is WNO's largest fundraiser and one of Washington's most anticipated events of the year. Proceeds from the Opera Gala will play a crucial role in advancing the Opera's award-wining artistic, educational, and outreach programs.

Tickets for the Gala concert start at $49 and are available online, in person at the Kennedy Center Box Office, and by calling (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324. For all other ticket-related customer service inquiries, call the Advance Sales Box Office at (202) 416-8540.

Information about Gala ticket packages, which include the VIP cocktail party, priority seating for the Gala concert, and seating at private embassy dinners following the performance, is available online or by contacting the Special Events office at (202) 416- 8496 or operagala@kennedy-center.org.

In the year leading up to the centennial of John F. Kennedy's birth on May 29, 2017, the Kennedy Center is revitalizing the very mission of the institution created to honor him. Inspired by a handful of enduring ideals he championed-Courage, Freedom, Justice, Service, and Gratitude-the Center is reenvisioning itself as a "living memorial": a place that explores, challenges, and reflects the contemporary spirit of America. Guided by JFK's legacy of idealism, hope, and empowerment, the Kennedy Center will launch new initiatives, serving as a catalyst and a meeting place, and invite members of the public to engage with artists and ideas, and to participate in the civic and cultural life of their country.

Washington National Opera (WNO) is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, the company presents a diverse season of grand opera-including both classics from the repertory and more contemporary pieces-plus several newly commissioned American works and a variety of special concerts and events. The WNO Orchestra is led by Music Director Philippe Auguin. Founded in 1956 and an affiliate of the Kennedy Center since 2011, WNO has a storied legacy of world premieres, new productions, international tours, live recordings and radio broadcasts, and innovative education and community-engagement programs. Throughout its history, WNO has been led by titans in the opera field, including the legendary Pla?cido Domingo, who headed the company from 1996 to 2011.

WNO contributes to the future of opera through two signature artist-development programs. The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, now in its 15th season, has become one of the nation's most competitive and comprehensive professional training programs for young singers and collaborative pianists. Alumni of the program have won major competitions and gone on to successful careers at major opera houses in the U.S. and abroad. The WNO Opera Institute nurtures the ambitions of high-school-age singers from across the nation during an intensive three-week summer program held at American University in Washington.

Among the company's most successful recent programs is the 2012 launch of the American Opera Initiative, a comprehensive commissioning program that works to expand the American operatic repertory, to give WNO's young artists the chance to collaborate with living composers and librettists on new works, and to make American opera more relevant to 21st-century audiences. The most popular of WNO's community-engagement programs is M&M'S Opera in the Outfield, during which an opera is broadcast live from the Kennedy Center Opera House stage to the high-definition scoreboard at Nationals Park. The company's other education programs include the Kids Create Opera program at local elementary schools, Look-In performances for students in grades 4-8, and the Student Dress Rehearsal Program for middle and high school students. The company also offers free Opera Insights programs before every performance in the Opera House.

To celebrate the company's 60th anniversary last season, Washington National Opera presented three complete cycles of Wagner's Ring in spring 2016. These performances, featuring an acclaimed production by Artistic Director Francesca Zambello and conducted by Music Director Philippe Auguin, marked the first time the company presented The Ring in complete cycles in its history.


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