IN MOST OF the arts, the first year of the Reagan administration may go into history as a year of deja vu. Andrew Wyeth made art news (at the auction, naturally), the most widely noted classical music premiere was a long-lost childhood symphony by Mozart, and "Nutcrackers" and "Messiahs" dominated the December landscape in Washington as never before.
The most interesting movie event of the year may have been the revival of the 1927 silent film "Napoleon," which has still not reached Washington. "Annie" and Bernstein's "Mass" returned to the Kennedy Center; "Camelot" sold out at Wolf Trap, and the hottest new show in town was "Evita," which was here for the first time but familiar to many patrons before they bought their tickets.
In dance, the names were often familiar--Martha Graham (87), George Balanchine (77) and Merce Cunningham (62)--but the work was still fresh and original. A new dance floor at the Kennedy Center gave hopes of a new era. And one new name leaped spectacularly to international stardom: 17-year-old Amanda McKerrow of the Washington Ballet, who won a major international competition in Moscow.
In popular music, it was the kind of year when the major news events were a farewell tour by the Rolling Stones, a biography of Elvis Presley, and a lawsuit in which his name kept popping up. Record companies recovered from their slump with a projected $4 billion gross, but profits remained low.
The movie industry emerged from a slump about a year ago, slipped back in the spring and then was rescued by "Superman II" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark." At year's end, there seemed to be prophetic overtones in the name of "Pennies From Heaven."
The most striking television attractions this year were assassination attempts (the pope, Ronald Reagan) and an assassination (Anwar Sadat), live and in color. Cable television began to make its impact on the American scene but was still embroiled in political controversy in the metropolitan Washington market.
Money made arts news this year as usual, by its presence and its absence. The big numbers included the $100 ticket for "Nicholas Nickleby" in New York, the $600,000 that CBS is contributing to finance six plays at the Eisenhower Theater, the $420,000 paid for an Andrew Wyeth landscape, the $3 million per week that "Superman II" was grossing at the beginning of its run.
At least one newsmaking number this year is still unknown but presumed to be very large: the value of the bequest (including oil leases in Canada and uncounted paintings) left by Joseph Hirshhorn to the museum that bears his name.
On the other hand, several American symphony orchestras came close to bankruptcy during the year, and so did the Washington Civic Opera. The Baltimore Ballet went out of business and the Capitol Ballet suspended operations. An orchestra strike was avoided at the Kennedy Center Opera House but not at the Baltimore Symphony.
A new trend was that of small festivals that came pre-packaged. These ranged from the Mostly Mozart Festival, imported from Lincoln Center last summer, to a two-day mini-festival of British music presented by the Pittsburgh Symphony and Andre' Previn in the fall. The most striking festival of the year was probably "Ninth Street Crossings," which gave Washington its first extensive view of the experimental new work being done in music, dance, video, graphics and performance art by post-modernist artists from New York. Perhaps the best-known of these artists, composer Philip Glass, made international news with the premiere of his opera, "Satyagraha," based on the life of Gandhi.
The movement of art galleries downtown to Seventh Street NW continued and escalated. A few blocks away, the opening of TICKETplace gave Washington preforming arts organizations a new opportunity to attract fresh audiences. But what will come of these developments, which all arrived in 1981, will be part of next year's story.