The Washington Opera, plagued in recent seasons with misfortunes such as an orchestral strike and the illness of director George London, will attempt a comeback next season.
The company yesterday annnounced a strong series of seven productions for 1980-81, ranging in vintage from Handel to contemporary American music and including a mixture of grand opera in the Kennedy Center Opera House and chamber opera in the Terrace Theater.
Two of the operas will be revivals of acclaimed productions from the past: Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" and Argento's "Postcard from Morocco." The other five will be new productions: Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera," Montemezzi's "L'Amore die Tre Re," Handel's "Semele," Rossini's "Barber of Seville" and the last operetta of Johnson Strauss, "Wiener Blut."
The company's new general director, Martin Feinstein, said yesterday that 47 performances will be given, and John Mauceri has been appointed the company's music director. Mauceri, who conducted three of the four productions in the 1979 Summer Opera season, will also conduct the final production of the current season, "Lucia di Lammermoor."
The staff of the reorganized Washington Opera will include two other figures familiar from past seasons: managing director Gary Fifield and dramaturg Francis Rizzo.
Compared with the company's recent years, the plans for next season seem very ambitious. More than twice as many performances as usual are scheduled; and all seven productions, including the two revivals, originated with The Washington Opera. Of this year's four productions, three are imported from other companies and the fourth is a co-production with an other company.
One advantage of this relatively unadventurous programming, however, is the relatively low financial demand it has made. The company has operated without a deficit for the last two seasons and is now out of debt. For future use, it recently secured five major grants totaling $495,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mellon Foundation, the Meyer Foundation, the Gafritz Foundation and the Gramma Discher Foundation.
Long-range plans for the company include a new production of Marc Blitzstein's "Regina," using previously omitted material and involving Leonard Bernstein in the preparation of the revised score. A production of Stravinsky's "The Rake's Process" will be presented in 1981-82, marking the 30th anniversary of the opera's premiere, and a new production of a Haydon opera will be presented in that session to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth.
Feinstein said he is now "trying to outline the first five seasons," noting that, usually, "a new director of a major opera company has three seasons to prepare for his first season."
By the 1981-82 season, he said, he hopes to schedule "a continuous 10-week season." He promised at least four new productions for each season through 1984, and said in addition to standard repertoire, there will be approximately eight contemporary works, including the world premiere of at least one American opera to be commissioned by the company.