Placido Domingo To Leave Washington National Opera

Placido Domingo said Monday he will leave the Washington National Opera when his contract expires next year, leaving a company with a higher artistic profile that is still struggling to support itself.

Domingo, 69, has been artistic director of the Washington National Opera since 1996 and served as its general director since 2003. The Spanish tenor holds the same title with the Los Angeles Opera and renewed his contract there last week through 2013.

Photo: AP Photo
Angel Plaza, Mexico City, Mexico

In a letter to the opera’s board obtained by The Washington Post, Domingo writes that the opera has been transformed into an internationally celebrated company. Still, he raised the possibility of a merger to sustain the opera in Washington.

“I think it is time for the company to go in new directions, including studying the possibility of a merger with the Kennedy Center,” he wrote. “And you can rest assured that I will do everything I can to help during this, my last year as general director.”

The opera has struggled financially in recent years as a stand-alone company.

Domingo is credited with raising the company’s profile by bringing more big productions and international stars to Washington. He led the company’s 2002 tour to Japan and created a young artists program to develop new talent.

“He will be missed, but all good things must come to an end,” Washington National Opera President Kenneth Feinberg said in announcing Domingo’s departure. “Placido’s association with WNO was essential to the company’s artistic development and helped it to gain recognition nationally and internationally.”

Feinberg said the opera hopes to continue artistic collaborations with Domingo in the future.

Under his current contract, Domingo will return to Washington early next year to sing “Iphigenie en Tauride” and will conduct performances of “Madama Butterfly” and “Don Pasquale.”

Domingo is best known to popular music audiences for his “Three Tenors” performances with Jose Carreras and the late Luciano Pavarotti.