The Washington Opera and the Orchestre de Paris announced yesterday that they will coproduce a cycle of three Mozart operas, starting with a new "Cosi fan tutte" that will open here in November of 1983.
Daniel Barenboim, the Paris orchestra's music director, will conduct, in his American operatic debut, and Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, one of the most famed of opera designers and perhaps the most controversial, will do the designs and the staging.
Subsequent productions--"The Marriage of Figaro" in 1984 and "Don Giovanni" in 1985--will also be under Barenboim and Ponnelle.
All three will be staged first in Paris, at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, and then be brought to the Kennedy Center Opera House as part of the Washington Opera season.
The project, which is the most ambitious venture ever taken on by the Washington Opera, was jointly announced yesterday by Jean-Pierre Guillard, the orchestra's general administrator, in Paris and by Martin Feinstein, the opera's general director, in Washington. Feinstein declared yesterday that the productions "will give the Washington Opera a Mozart wing of the very first order."
Feinstein declined to be specific about how the costs would be divided, but said that the project will "run to more than $1 million."
Casts have not yet been set, said Feinstein, but he disclosed that Don Giovanni will be sung by the noted Belgian bass-baritone, Jose' Van Dam. Every effort will be made to cast the same singers in Washington as in Paris, Feinstein said.
Barenboim is more familiar with European singers than with American ones, Feinstein said. Because of that, auditions were arranged for him to hear about 15 American singers during his visits here and in New York with the Orchestre de Paris last month.
In the Paris performances of the operas the Orchestre de Paris will be in the pit and here Barenboim will conduct the Washington Opera orchestra.
Artistic direction of the new productions will be in the hands of a committee including Barenboim, Ponnelle, Feinstein and Peter Diamond, the former head of the Edinburgh Festival. The group was formed about two years ago.
Barenboim, who is as widely known as a pianist as he is as a conductor, has confined his activities in this country in recent years to piano performances and to guest conducting the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Barenboim also brought the Orchestre de Paris to the Kennedy Center for a festival of French music in the late '70s.
The Ponnelle productions that have been performed here range from an earlier "Marriage of Figaro" that drew wide praise when brought by the Vienna Opera in 1979 to a Houston Grand Opera production of "La Traviata" that was denounced as lurid and was described by one observer as "La Travestia."
Barenboim and Ponnelle recently collaborated on a new "Tristan and Isolde" at Bayreuth.
The productions will be part of a huge Mozart festival in Paris beginning this June. It will include such undertakings as all 27 piano concertos and the choral works, Feinstein said.