Photos by Sasha Sinclair of Studio 3440

           Giuseppi Verdi’s Don Carlo is an epic tale of “forbidden passion and political intrigue,” (read the synopsis here), which is the perfect opera for the Washington, DC audience. The Washington National Opera (WNO) will present it at The Kennedy Center Opera House beginning on Friday, March 3.

            This Olympic-sized co-production with Opera Philadelphia and Minnesota Opera is stacked with opera’s biggest names as its leads including soprano Leah Crocetto, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, bass-baritone Eric Owens, and bass Andrea Silvestrelli, with tenor Russell Thomas and baritone Quinn Kelsey making their WNO debuts as the title role of Don Carlo and his confidante Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, respectively.

            This week, Don Michael Mendoza of Producing the District for The District Now was invited to take a behind-the-scenes sneak peak of the opera before it opens this weekend. Here are some of the sirens, sights, and sounds we encountered. First, we sat down with the WNO’s Director of Artistic Operations Andrew Jorgensen.

           “This was a five-year journey from the moment that we first began talking about bringing Don Carlo to the stage to actually being here now. Leading singers book their time years in advance. It’s incredibly exciting after five years to see this production on stage, to see and hear these singers with our music director (Philippe Auguin), and hear this incredible music,” Jorgensen said.

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           Next, we spoke with Eric Owens (below) who plays King Philip II of Spain. He took a moment to let us see his pre-show preparation and explained to us how he becomes the villain.

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           A few moments later, Costume Designer Constance Hoffman took a moment to explain her process behind bringing her concept to life. Her colleague modeled the costume for the ensemble members who play those condemned to torture in the Spanish Inquisition, which is part of the opera’s time-period.

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           Then, we were led through the hair and make-up departments where we encountered stylists and artists hard at work to get the actors and their wigs looking just right for the evening’s rehearsal.

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           After exploring the backstage and dressing room area, we emerged back into the opera house and grand lobby of the Kennedy Center where we encountered Robert Ainsley, the Director of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and the American Opera Initiative, who revealed a little bit about how the WNO involves participants of the program in the cast of Don Carlo in what he described as the “Olympics of opera.”

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           “[The program] offers all of the young artists really significant performance opportunities throughout the season and in this production, we have Timothy Bruno, Allegra De Vita, Leah Hawkins, and program alumna Daryl Freedman. This is one of the finest casts I’ve been in a room with and it’s extremely rare for any house to assemble a cast of this quality. I’m fangirling out!” Ainsley said.

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           “Any production of Don Carlo is special because it’s one of the pieces in the repertoire that we aren’t able to do often because of the scale of the forces that it requires,” Jorgensen explained.

            The production will run from March 3-17 at The Kennedy Center Opera House with multiple casts and tickets are available now. However, no matter which show you choose, all of them will wow audiences from the orchestra to the top tier, and is simply a story that people from all ages and backgrounds should set aside the time to experience. (Photos by Sasha Sinclair of Studio 3440)


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