Washington National Opera Announces 2021-2022 Season

WNO’s 2021–2022 season will include: Come Home: A Celebration of Return, Written in Stone, Così fan tutte, Carmen, and more.

By: May. 13, 2021
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Washington National Opera Announces 2021-2022 Season

Washington National Opera, led by General Director Timothy O'Leary and Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, today announced its 2021-2022 season featuring a triumphant return to the Opera House stage, four world premiere commissions celebrating the Kennedy Center's 50th Anniversary, debuts from acclaimed and rising opera stars, the return to the pit for Principal Conductor Evan Rogister and the WNO Orchestra & Chorus, and more. Beginning in November 2021, WNO's 2021-2022 season will include: Come Home: A Celebration of Return, Written in Stone, Così fan tutte, Carmen, Marian Anderson Vocal Award Recital: Frederick Ballentine, and Opera in the Outfield.

"We approached this season with so many different emotions-I think we are all coming back as new people, new audiences, new performers and that very much went into the planning of this season as we thought about the Kennedy Center's 50th Anniversary and our first season without our beloved Ruth Bader Ginsburg," said Artistic Director Francesca Zambello. "We are proud to announce a season we hope will excite new audiences and long-time friends of the WNO alike-the Come Home Celebration performance includes stars across the operatic field, while the classics like Carmen and Così fan tutte will be seen through a new lens, the commissions are a major contribution to the field from us as a company. This is a moment for us to share what we have missed in our lives over the last year-connection."

The WNO season makes a return to the stage with Come Home: A Celebration of Return, a concert performance of opera excerpts highlighting liberty and artistic idealism, themes embraced by John F. Kennedy and featuring a musical tribute to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The performances will feature internationally acclaimed stars, a mix of WNO favorites, and new faces including: the WNO debut of Pretty Yende, returning WNO favorites Isabel Leonard, Lawrence Brownlee, and Alexandria Shiner, and the anticipated mainstage debuts of ascendant heldentenor David Butt Philip and towering bass-baritone Christian Van Horn. Principal Conductor Evan Rogister leads the WNO Orchestra and Chorus. (Opera House, November 6-14).

In celebration of the Kennedy Center's 50th Anniversary, WNO commissioned four teams of world-renowned artists, musicians, composers, and librettists to create works inspired by Washington D.C.'s iconic monuments and the ideals embodied by President Kennedy. Written in Stone will present four intimate stories celebrating the diversity and acknowledging the struggles of today's America. The creative teams for this project include: multi-dimensional artist Alicia Hall Moran and MacArthur Fellow, pianist, composer, and Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran, who will create an opening celebratory work exploring how and why we commemorate people and deeds; acclaimed composer Huang Ruo and Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award®-winning librettist and playwright David Henry Hwang tell a story depicting Maya Lin, the celebrated but initially controversial creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as her design is first unveiled to a nation still bitterly divided over the War itself; innovative composer/performer Kamala Sankaram teams up with internationally acclaimed author and D.C. native A.M. Homes as the duo dives into the story of the 1920 Portrait Monument depicting women of the suffragette movement; and finally Kennedy Center Vice President and Artistic Director of Social Impact Marc Bamuthi Joseph collaborates with the Kennedy Center's newly appointed Composer-in-Residence Carlos Simon on a piece centered on a father-son relationship, the politics of Queer identity in the Black church, and the hope inspired by the Supreme Court's landmark 2015 decision on marriage equality. Renowned conductor Robert Spano-who serves as Music Director of both the Aspen Music Festival and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra-makes his WNO debut with this production. While J'Nai Bridges, who was hailed the "Beyoncé of Opera" by BET and acclaimed baritone Rod Gilfry return to the Kennedy Center to lead the cast. Written in Stone also highlights WNO's commitment to its American Opera Initiative (AOI). Alums of AOI included in this commissioning project: Huang Ruo, David Henry Hwang, Kamala Sankaram, and Carlos Simon. (Eisenhower Theater, March 5-25).

Finally, the season will wrap up with two of the most popular titles in the operatic canon:Così fan tutte and Carmen.

Originally scheduled for the 2020-2021 season, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Così fan tutte will include an all-star cast, featuring "radiant" (Opera Today) soprano Laura Wilde and one of the most exciting mezzo-sopranos singing today Rihab Chaieb as sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella in their WNO debuts. Highly sought-after lyric tenor Kang Wang and "impressive" (Opera Wire) baritone Andrey Zhilikhovsky take on the roles of Ferrando and Guglielmo, respectively. Grammy Award®-winning soprano Ana María Martínez makes her role debut as Despina. Celebrated bass-baritone and WNO favorite Eric Owens also makes his role debut as Don Alfonso. Erina Yashima is at the podium in her American operatic debut. In a staging twist, the orchestra will perform onstage as part of the production's mise-en-scène, allowing Don Alfonso to play the role of "puppet master," sometimes grabbing the conductor's baton to exert theatrical control over the lovers with help from Mozart. (Eisenhower Theater, March 12-March 26).

Then in a D.C. premiere production helmed by WNO's own Artistic Director Francesca Zambello and led by Principal Conductor Evan Rogister, Georges Bizet's beloved Carmen explores the larger cultural conversations around gender, sexuality, and power and will feature an important role debut from Grammy Award®-winning mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard as Carmen, Colombian American soprano Vanessa Vasquez returns to WNO as Micaëla, 2018 Marian Anderson Award winner and bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green takes on the role of Escamillo, while internationally acclaimed tenor Michael Fabiano portrays Don José in his highly anticipated company debut. Two special Cafritz Young Artists Performances of Carmen will take place on May 15 and 27, and will feature singers from the Young Artist program in principal roles. Casting for these performances will be announced in the coming months (Opera House, May 14-28).

"We are thrilled to welcome our community back in person," said General Director Timothy O'Leary. "Opera companies are people - the audience in community with singers, chorus, orchestra, dancers, costume stitchers, backstage artisans, staff, and volunteers. Digital and even virtual reality performance during the pandemic has been wonderful, but the past year has taught us so much about the value of live experiences. As a company, we are committed to moving this art form forward, to serving, including, and reflecting our diverse community, and shaping the future of opera by championing the next generation of stars and creators. Above all, opera is the sound of the human voice, the sound of what is best in us. We can't wait to offer it live once again."

"We've all been craving large-scale operatic moments and I'm excited by the sweep of musical experiences on offer," said Principal Conductor Evan Rogister. "From the downbeat of Come Home: A Celebration of Return to the final chord of Carmen, we look forward to imbuing new vitality into the Opera House and exhilarating our audience. The WNO Orchestra and Chorus will be central to realizing those grand moments, in an innovative approach to Mozart's sublime Così fan tutte and key to realizing the vision of Written in Stone 's composers and librettists. On a more intimate scale, I'm honored that WNO has become the first American partner of 1:1 CONCERTS©, these unique musical encounters over the summer serve as a thank you both to front-line workers in our community and to WNO donors for their support of our artists in this challenging year."

The season will also feature the annual Marian Anderson Vocal Award to spotlight rising star and Cafritz Young Artists alum Frederick Ballentine. The emerging tenor will perform in an intimate recital that embodies the spirit of the ground breaking contralto Marian Anderson (Terrace Theater, December 7). And, the season will see the return of the conversation series, Let's Go There. Moderated by musician, content creator, and media personality Garrett McQueen, the series invites figures from arts, culture, academia, politics, and more to use opera as a prism to examine and candidly discuss modern day issues, plus, the return of WNO's most popular program Opera in the Outfield® -an event during which an opera is broadcast to the high-definition scoreboard at Nationals Park.

Pop-up Opera Truck, SLOPERA!, Beethoven in VR , and The Cartography Project

Previously announced events that go beyond the opera house stage include:

WNO's Pop-up Opera truck run of performances including the premiere of Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence Mo Willems's first opera, Elephant & Piggie present SLOPERA!: A Bite-Sized Opera**; an immersive VR experience featuring WNO favorites Tamara Wilson and Russell Thomas as they perform two towering arias from Beethoven's Fidelio-accompanied in 360-degree immersive music by the WNO Orchestra; and finally, The Cartography Project, a multi-year commissioning project engaging artists from around the nation to create a musical map that explores the theme of Black dignity. WNO is working with composer/librettist teams B.E. Boykin and Brittny Ray Crowell, Jasmine Barnes and Joshua Banbury, Liz Gre and Junauda Petrus-Nash, and Jens Ibsen and Yasmina Ibsen to create short vocal works.

WNO also looks forward to presenting Tony Award®-winning composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson's Blue in a future season. Previously scheduled for its D.C. premiere in the 2019-2020 season, the opera centers on the hopes and fears of a young Black couple in Harlem as they raise a son in 21st-century America.

**ELEPHANT & PIGGIE is a trademark of The Mo Willems Studio, Inc.

As the Kennedy Center moves towards a full re-opening, it continues to prioritize the health and safety of artists, staff, and patrons. Current protocols can be found here and will continue to update as conditions evolve.

2021­-2022 Opera Season Schedule

Come Home: A Celebration of Return

November 6-14, 2021 in the Opera House

A star-studded cast joins Principal Conductor Evan Rogister and the WNO Orchestra & Chorus in a project of musical grandeur, featuring scenes from the likes of Rossini's Guillaume Tell, Verdi's Nabucco, Wagner's Tannhäuser, and a musical tribute to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This celebration will welcome WNO's community back to the Opera House and our ability to gather again, reflect on this time of loss, and look forward with courage and hope.

Saturday, November 6, 2021 at 7 p.m.

Monday, November 8, 2021 at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, November 14, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.


Pretty Yende* Soprano
Alexandria Shiner± Soprano

Isabel Leonard Mezzo-soprano

Lawrence Brownlee Tenor

David Butt Philip* Tenor

Christian Van Horn* Bass-baritone

Members of the Cafritz Young Artists

Evan Rogister Conductor

Brenna Corner Director

S. Katy Tucker Projections Designer

Marian Anderson Vocal Award: Frederick Ballentine

December 7, 2021 in the Terrace Theater

The Marian Anderson Vocal Award recognizes a young American singer in opera, oratorio, or recital repertoire with outstanding promise for a significant career. In addition to a cash prize and an educational residency at Washington's Duke Ellington School of the Arts, the winner performs in a recital presented by WNO. This year's recipient, Frederick Ballentine, joins an exceptional slate of past recipients including Ryan Speedo Green, John Holiday, Janai Brugger, J'Nai Bridges, Soloman Howard, Lawrence Brownlee, and Will Liverman, among others.

Written in Stone

March 5-March 25, 2022 in the Eisenhower Theater

Inspired by Washington D.C.'s iconic monuments and the ideals embodied by President Kennedy, Written in Stone will present four intimate stories celebrating the diversity and acknowledging the struggles of today's America.

Saturday, March 5, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 13, 2022 at 2:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 19, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.

Monday, March 21, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, March 25, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.

Composer/Writer Teams

Alicia Hall Moran/Jason Moran

Huang Ruo/David Henry Hwang

Kamala Sankaram/A.M. Homes

Carlos Simon/Marc Bamuthi Joseph


J'Nai Bridges Mezzo-soprano

Rod Gilfry Baritone

Robert Spano* Conductor

James Robinson Director

Erhard Rom Set Designer

Dede Ayite* Costume Designer

S. Katy Tucker Projections Designer

Mark McCullough Lighting Designer

Complete casting to be announced at a later date

Così fan tutte

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte

March 12-March 26, 2022 in the Eisenhower Theater

An all-star cast offers a performance of Mozart's tale about the cynical Don Alfonso and his young soldier friends Ferrando and Guglielmo who question whether their fiancées, sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi, will stay faithful while they are away.

In Italian with projected English subtitles

Saturday, March 12, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.

Monday, March 14, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, March 18, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 20, 2022 at 2:00 p.m.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 26, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.


Laura Wilde* Fiordiligi

Rihab Chaieb* Dorabella

Kang Wang* Ferrando

Andrey Zhilikhovsky Guglielmo

Ana María Martínez Despina

Eric Owens Don Alfonso

Alison Moritz Director

Erina Yashima* Conductor

Erhard Rom Set Designer

Lynly Saunders Costume Designer

S. Katy Tucker Projections Designer

Mark McCullough Lighting Designer


Music by Georges Bizet

Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy

May 14-28, 2022 in the Opera House

Principal Conductor Evan Rogister returns to the Opera House pit in WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello's production of Carmen. French composer Georges Bizet's 1875 melodrama explores the story of the tragic love of Don José, a Spanish soldier, for Carmen, a tempestuous Roma woman who refuses to be bound to conventional ways.

In French with projected English subtitles

Saturday, May 14, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, May 15, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. †

Monday, May 16, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, May 20, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, May 22, 2022 at 2:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, May 27, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. †

Saturday, May 28, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.


Isabel Leonard Carmen

Michael Fabiano* Don José

Ryan Speedo Green* Escamillo

Vanessa Vasquez Micaëla

Evan Rogister Conductor

Francesca Zambello Director

Anna Maria Bruzzese Associate Director and Choreographer

Tanya McCallin* Set and Costume Designer

Paule Constable* Lighting Designer

Carmen is a Co-Production of San Francisco Opera and Washington National Opera,

originally created by Opera Australia based on the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and

Norwegian National Opera co-production

†Cafritz Young Artist Performance

* Washington National Opera debut

± Alumnus of the Cafritz Young Artist Program

Artists and performances are subject to change


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