Alan's Blog...It's all Gesamtkunstwerk to me!

Thoughts from nearly 40 years on the professional stage

Kennedy Center up until now...much awaits

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged extensively about my early days in the D.C. area. As I mentioned, one of the reasons I agreed to come to the Wolf Trap Opera Company was because I was offered a considerable amount of work with The Washington Opera (before it became known as The Washington National Opera by an act of Congress). In many ways, this has become my “home” company, where the foundation was firmed for a singing career, where much support was received, and where many roles were sung for the first time. I have so enjoyed being active in the musical life of this great city. Over these past 24 years and with this production of “Tosca” which we open on Saturday evening (tonight is the final dress rehearsal), I have appeared in 30 productions in the D.C. area (most of them with the Washington National Opera). In addition to the fully staged opera productions (and concert operas), there have been other concerts as well. I thought it might be fun, for this blog entry, to list these productions with a brief blip here or there of a particular memory as it pops into mind. I have become wonderfully associated with this company and with the area. I have many to whom I’m indebted. I truly am thankful that so many took a “chance” on me. Thank you, Frank Rizzo, for getting it started. I miss Ed Purrington’s strong counsel and support since his retirement. His presence with this company was so wonderfully felt by us all. And how I miss Martin Feinstein who passed away a few years back---what great leadership he brought to this company. The company changed greatly in the 90s as it brought more international recognition and prominence thanks to Placido Domingo taking charge. His wonderful staff and all at the WNO have become great friends. Now, the company is undergoing even greater changes as it is under the guidance of the Kennedy Center itself. I know that much awaits this treasured organization. Exciting days are ahead. I’m so happy to have been a part of it.

So, here are those memories from 24 years of singing in the Washington, D.C. area.


Wolf Trap Opera
Wolf Trap Opera performances were blogged about in previous posts. Check ‘em out.
Il Barbiere di Siviglia
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Showcase Concert

Washington Opera
Romeo and Juliette---my first opera performances in a major house.
Madame Butterfly---I jumped into this run four days before opening night and sang all the performances. It was a beautiful production with the enchanting Yoko Watnabe as Cio Cio San.
Ruddigore---I have not, to this day, been in a more “fun” production. What a great ensemble and what an incredibly exciting concept. Bring it back!!!
Fidelio---my first opera sung in German. I’ve now sung this opera more than any other (3 different roles). This run was directed by my friend Laurie Feldman (she did a GREAT job) and featured James McCracken in his last performances before his untimely death shortly thereafter.
Cendrillon---The story of Cinderella as told by Massenet. Frederica Von Stade was the star and mesmerized us all. The Prince was sung wonderfully by Susanne Mentzer who was 6 months pregnant at the time. Tracy Dahl was the enchanting Fairy Godmother.

Washington Concert Opera
Werther---Jerry Hadley in the title role (how he is missed) and the wonderful Diana Montague as Charlotte.


Wolf Trap Opera
Don Giovanni
The Love for Three Oranges
Showcase Concert

Washington Opera
Tosca---I sang the role of Angelotti. Placido Domingo was Cavaradossi--incredible performances. Justino Diaz sang Scarpia. It was mentioned, at the time, that Diaz was once Angelotti for The Washington Opera and that, perhaps at some point, I’d return as Scarpia. In around 48 hours, it looks like that’s going to happen.
La Traviata---Nelly Miricioiu in one of her most noted roles---spectacular.

Washington Concert Opera
Ariadne auf Naxos---I learned the wordy role of the Music Teacher at short notice. Whew! Thank heavens they let me use a score.


Kennedy Center Presents
Amahl and the Night Visitors---special performances staged by The Kennedy Center by the composer of the opera, Gian Carlo Menotti. These were magical performances in the Eisenhower Theater that featured great sets, falling snow, live sheep, and a monkey. What a great experience to be involved with this Christmas classic.

Washington Opera


Washington National Opera
Manon---Nelly Miricioiu returns in the title role. I had complete laryngitis for the second performance and had no understudy. It was one of the most difficult performances of my career.
Rigoletto---Louis Quilico in some of his last performances in the title role. A young mezzo by the name of Denyce Graves sang the role of Maddelena.


Washington National Opera
Boris Godunov--After an absence of eight years, I finally return to D.C. The concept for the character Rangoni was particularly sinister (and fun). Sam Ramey sang the title role. It was great to perform with a fellow Wichita State Shocker (even though we were never on stage at the same time). I also understudied, during this run, the role of Kurwenal in “Tristan und Isolde”. Learning the role for the first time under the protection of being a cover served me well as I’ve now gone on to sing the role so many times in various places (and it comes back next month in Bilbao, Spain).


Washington National Opera
Parsifal---my first performances as Amfortas. Placido sang the title role. Matti Salminen was Gurnemanz. I shared a dressing room with the incredible Thomas Stewart who sang the role of Titurel (my father in the opera). Tom was a great Amfortas in the preceding decades. He was so encouraging. Having to sing the role for the first time in his presence was intimidating but Tom eased my anxiety. It was great getting to know him and his dear wife Evelyn Lear. Both have been so sad it was to lose Tom so soon. Evelyn was reading the first “Harry Potter” book at the time...the first time I’d ever heard of this character.


Washington National Opera
Les Contes d’Hoffmann---So many memories from this time period but not all that many due to the opera itself. We opened the production at The Kennedy Center on September 8. A wonderful gala was held following the performance to welcome the season with many national and foreign dignitaries in attendance. It was a great night of celebration. However, any spirit of joy was shattered permanently just three days later. We sang the second performance on September 12, 2011 to an audience that was as stunned as we were--I have never heard an audience so quiet before a performance. A special tribute to all those who who were lost was held before the curtain went up. Somehow, during the evening, we started to feel the audience’s strong support for our work and for our attempts to entertain them during a very difficult time. One could see the Pentagon from The Kennedy Center--the events of this time period are seared in my memory and in the memory of us all.


Washington National Opera
Fidelio---Another production of this opera for the WNO (I sang a different role than nearly 14 years earlier). The performances were held at Constitution Hall as the Opera House at The Kennedy Center was undergoing renovation. I sang the last performance with my right hand stuffed in my coat pocket. The night before, I had my thumb cut severely at a restaurant and spent a few hours in the George Washington Hospital Emergency Room. I don’t think the audience expected a thing.


Washington National Opera
Die Walküre---I have now sung Wotan many times but these performances (again at Constitution Hall) were some of my favorites. The orchestra was behind the set---we were so close to the audience and they surrounded us on three sides. Somehow, the opera felt intimate. I LOVED THIS RUN. Also, during this time, our beautiful daughter arrived. What a special time to be a daddy both on and off the stage.


Washington National Opera
Samson et Dalila---We finally returned to The Kennedy Center. Placido Domingo was in the pit for some of the performances. Olga Borodina sang Dalila.


Wolf Trap
Recital---It was great to return to The Barns at Wolf Trap for a full recital accompanied by Kim Witman who now expertly leads the company.

Washington National Opera
50th Anniversary Concert---I sang Leporello’s “Catalogue Aria” as part of the celebration. I used the D.C. phone book as my prop. So many wonderful artists took part in this gala including Anna Netrebko, Juan Diego Florez, Kristen Chenoweth, and Placido Domingo. We were invited to The White House the next day for a luncheon but I had to decline the invitation as I had an opening night of
Fidelio at The Metropolitan Opera that night. How I would have loved to have been there.


National Symphony Orchestra
Salome---Concert performances with Deborah Voigt and the orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin.

Washington National Opera
Die Walküre---Francesca Zambello’s second installment of “The American Ring” is staged and I returned for Wotan. I truly loved being a part of this new concept---a modern staging that I think really works. Linda Watson played my strong willed warrior daughter. Great theater.


Washington National Opera
Der Fliegende Holländer---These were my first performances of the Dutchman, a role I look forward to singing again this winter in Munich. I had to wear a top hat and a VERY heavy coat that made me look like a huge black bear. What a great learning experience as we sang under Maestro Fricke. He did so much to develop a strong and wonderful orchestra here at the WNO.


Washington National Opera
Peter Grimes---Productions of this great opera are always wonderful ensemble experiences. This run was one of my favorites. I think many in the audience were surprised by how much they came to enjoy this masterpiece. Chris Ventris was a strong Grimes and Patricia Racette (Tosca in our current production) was Ellen. A wonderful time was shared by the cast in this run. The result, for the audience, was powerful.
Siegfried---The Ring continues with part 3---awesome stuff. I appeared as Wotan disguised as Der Wanderer. In this concept, he basically looks like a homeless Vietnam veteran. Again, great theater!


Washington National Opera
Götterdämmerung---I have sung the role of Gunther so many times during my career but bringing it to the Opera House at The Kennedy Center was a highlight. The “American Ring” was put on hold and so these performances were given in a concert setting. The cast interacted wonderfully without the use of costumes, sets, or props. The theater and music making experience didn’t suffer one bit.


Wolf Trap Opera
40th Anniversary Concert---a career highlight already mentioned in a previous posting.

Washington National Opera
Tosca---What memories will this run bring? Once again, Placido and I are involved. He will conduct several of the performances of the run and I’ve been “promoted” to Scarpia, a dream role. I can’t tell you how honored I feel to be singing this role in this house. I still get a tingle every time I walk into The Kennedy Center and am grateful for each note, each colleague, and each person who has shared in this journey on either side of the footlights.

It’s been quite a ride!!! Here’s to much more music making on the Potomac.