The National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington Opera have been given National Endowment for the Arts challenge grants totaling $1.4 million, NEA chairman Francis Hodsoll announced yesterday.

The grants were part of a total of 47 given to major arts organizations nationwide and totaling $21.1 million. The recipients were chosen from 171 applications. Washington was one of eight cities receiving more than one grant and the only city in which more than one grant went to a musical organization.

The grants of $900,000 to the NSO and $500,000 to the Washington Opera will require these organizations to raise at least three times these amounts in matching funds during the next three years. The directors of both organizations said they expect to reach and surpass these goals.

"In the near future, we hope to announce a challenge that will be more than three to one, more than a million and a half" dollars, said Martin Feinstein of the Washington Opera. "In other words, we ain't going to be content with $2 million." He said that the company already has pledges for more than the $500,000 it will be required to raise in the next year.

"To stabilize the National Symphony's fiscal condition, we will have to raise considerably more than $3 million in endowment and deficit retirement funds during the next three years," said the NSO's Henry Fogel. "We see this grant as a major stipulation of that effort as well as frankly the NEA's recognition that we have the ability to do it."

According to Hodsoll, the NEA's past grants have usually generated $7 to $8 of private giving for each dollar contributed by the federal government. He predicted that nearly $150 million will be received from the private sector in response to the latest grants.

The NSO's fund campaign is spearheaded by its president, Virginia Mars; the Washington Opera's by president David Lloyd Kreeger and chairman Chris Hunter. Both organizations plan to make announcements in the near future about their fund-raising goals.