Washington Opera To Set 'Butterfly' Free on the Mall

Last year, about 13,000 attended the  simulcast of Washington National Opera's production of
Last year, about 13,000 attended the simulcast of Washington National Opera's production of "Porgy and Bess." This year's "Madama Butterfly" is on Nov. 12. (By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)
By Tim Page
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 19, 2006

In its continuing efforts to win a wider audience, the Washington National Opera plans to present its second free live simulcast from the Kennedy Center to the Mall on Nov. 12.

The opera will be Giacomo Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," in the acclaimed 2001 production by director Mariusz Trelinski. Tatiana Borodina will sing the title role, with Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Lieutenant Pinkerton. Placido Domingo, WNO's general director, will conduct the Washington Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

"Madama Butterfly" will be shown that afternoon on an 18-by-32-foot video screen located near the Capitol as part of what WNO now says is a "commitment" to telecasting one opera a year. Last November, George and Ira Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" drew an audience estimated at 13,000 people.

No tickets will be required. The production costs -- about $300,000 on top of the usual expenses of putting on an opera at the Kennedy Center -- will be met by private donations from board members and other supporters. Working through the National Park Service, WNO will pay all costs for security, first aid, trash removal, information stations, rangers on the site, sanitation and other necessities.

Kenneth R. Feinberg, the opera's newly appointed president, acknowledged that the decision to go ahead with a second simulcast had been "the subject of some discussion" among board members. "There's a central question here -- and it is not only a question in Washington but in New York and San Francisco and in all the great opera companies. Will these new technology initiatives raise revenue or is revenue not the primary goal?

"I believe that if we allow the next generation of young people greater access to the opera now -- through simulcasts, radio, special events, lower-priced tickets, free tickets and so on -- they are much more likely to support the opera later on. This is the wave of the future -- and, fortunately, we found a way to pay for it."

Other opera companies, including those in New York, London and Vienna, have presented such simulcasts. The Metropolitan Opera's live telecast of "Madama Butterfly" drew thousands of viewers in Times Square last month.

Domingo issued a brief statement saying, "Washington National Opera is thrilled to continue to find new ways to bring opera to anyone so they may enjoy it."

The normal high temperature for Nov. 12 is 59, but there's no predicting. Those who want to guarantee a warm, paid seat for "Madama Butterfly" can take in one of nine indoor performances at the Kennedy Center Opera House between Nov. 4 and 19.

Information: 202-295-2400 or http://www.dc-opera.org .

© 2006 The Washington Post Company