Nadkedness in opera is dangerous," Gian Carlo Menotti told a press conference yesterday at the Kennedy Center.
"I have seen quite a few naked singers, and they're not very good-looking," said the composer/stage director, who has been working closely with the Washington Opera in recent years.
Menotti was answering a question from the press about whether his new opera, "Goya," would have a nude scene reminiscent of Goya's famous paintin "La Maja Desnuda." The answer, apparently, is no -- but it may still be too early to say. While he has finished most of the work of composing, Menotti said, "At the moment, the opera is like a Swiss cheese -- full of holes . . . Act 1 is more like an American cheese."
At a press conference held by the Washington Opera to announce its 1986-87 season, Menotti grabbed the spotlight from such chronic attention-getters as Roger Stevens, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, David Lloyd Kreeger and Martin Feinstein.
The announcement that the Washington Opera would give the world premiere of "Goya" next season -- with Placido Doimingo in the title role -- was hardly a surprise to intensive opera-watchers in Washington. Talk about it has been circulating for quite a while.
And there was little shock value in the announcement that Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Tsar's Bride," conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich and directed by Galina Vishnevskaya, will be another highlight of next season. The same production attracted international attention recently when it was presented in Monte Carlo.
But after a 1985-86 season in which the company significantly cut the number of its productions and performances, the announcements made the 1986-87 season look truly spectacular. It will be the longest season in the company's history, with 76 performances of eight productions. The repertoire will span more than four centuries, from Monteverdi's "The Coronation of Poppea" (1642) to "Goya" (1986). And the company's roster of international star conductors will be doubled from the one per season that has been the rule in the 1980s. Besides Rostropovich, the company will offer Fruhbeck conducting "Goya."
Fruhbeck had originally been scheduled to conduct "Il Trovatore," whioch will open the season Oct. 25 with Franco Bonisolli in the title role and Susan Dunn making her Washington Opera debut as Leonora.
"A few years ago, [Fruhbeck] told me he would never conduct another opera," Feinstein said. "But he had such a happy experience conducting our 'Carmen' that he agreed to come back."
Fruhbeck was one person who had not heard the rumors about "Goya." "Until a few months ago," he said, "I didn't even know it existed; I was supposed to do 'Trovatore.' Then, when Martin told me about this new opera, composed by Menotti, with Goya as its subject and Domingo in the title role, I said yes immediately."
The 1986-87 season also will include one visiting production, Cimarosa's "Il Matrimonio Segreto," presented by the Cologne Opera.
In the Terrace Theater, there will be two new productions: A modern-dress "Poppea," sung in English and showing "lots of skin" according to backstage gossip; and a new producton of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale," featuring Francois Loup in the title role and directed by Douglas Wager of Arena Stage in his opera debut.
Finally, two of the company's most popular Terrace Theater productions of the past will be brought back: Mozart's "The Abduction From the Seraglio" and Johann Strauss' "Wiener Blut."
Besides announcing its next season, the company used the conference to celebrate the financial success of the season just ended. "We had the best record of any opera company anywhere in terms of attendance," said Kreeger. "We sold 97.7 percent of our tickets, and anyone who knows theater knows that that means we sold out our theoretical capacity. One production, 'Daughter of the Regiment,' actually sold 102 percent of its tickets, thanks to patrons who were unable to attend and turned back their tickets . . . We surpassed our budget for ticket sales by $107,000, and we had budgeted ambitiously."
Kreeger introduced Stevens who, as chairman of the Kennedy Center, will be the copresenter of "Goya." "I think he's a great landlord, but he should do something about the exorbitant rents," Kreeger said.
"I don't like being called a landlord," Stevens answered. "It's not a very artistic pursuit. If you stop calling me a landlord, maybe I'll do something about the rent."
"It's a deal," said Kreeger. "You are a great artist and producer of artistic events. I'll call you an ex-landlord."
Giving a preview of his "Goya," Menotti said without embarrassment that the libretto (which he wrote) is "very inaccurate -- it is my idea of Goya as a person . . . Nobody knows whether Goya actually had an affair with the Duchess of Alba . . . There was also gossip that the queen poisoned the duchess, who did die very young. Whether it is true or not, it is very operatic -- so I grabbed it."
He promised that there will be plenty of good tunes for Domingo, because, "As I get older, my music gets more and more lyrical."
The central question of the opera, he said, will be the relation between art and life: "Can a man be as difficult as Wagner was, or Beethoven, and still write such wonderful music? I think the answer is yes; you can't be a charming man and a great artist. I love to be charming, so I will never be a great composer."