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Kennedy Center Opera House
As the music begins, one is immediately transferred from their seat in the audience to a dream world of pretence that surprisingly seems more real than reality. One immediately begins to identify with one of the characters the opera is trying, very successfully, to portray.
One moment, you may be roaming about in lush green gardens singing a song of love and romance while the very next moment you may be transferred to the battle field and still next you may experience death.
Such is the power of the orchestra, or more precisely, such is the power of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.
The year 1971 marked the spectacular inauguration of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Even more spectacular was the opening performance - Leonard Bernstein's Mass. Among the musicians performing in the orchestra was a group of Washington D.C. area artists who were destined to become the nucleus for the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.
Ever since it"s grand opening, the Opera House has not looked back. What sets the Kennedy Centre apart from other opera houses is its resident orchestra.
Throughout the early and mid-70's, these same musicians played for a dazzling array of world-class ballet companies and other Kennedy Center events, including annual visits by American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, and Royal Ballet, world premieres of both Annie and 42nd Street, and operettas by the D'Oyly Carte Company of England.
The 1976-77 birthday celebration year was the year of visitors. Visiting opera companies included Bolshoi Opera, La Scala Opera, Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera. This regular body of musicians was officially declared the house orchestra of the Kennedy Center in 1978 with John Lanchberry the first music director.
He was later replaced by John Mauceri, who served as the music director for ten years. Highlights of his tenure include the addition of annual visits by the Dance Theater of Harlem, the Washington Opera's televised world premiere of Menotti's Goya and music theater programming of Oklahoma, Carousel, and two productions of West Side Story.
In 1993, the world-renowned German opera conductor, Heinz Fricke, was appointed to the joint position of Music Director of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and the Washington Opera. Thanks to his guidance and ardor the Orchestra has been brought out of the pit and onto the stage of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall stage.
The Orchestra has reached a new level of international acclaim during his tenure."Within just a few years, Fricke has steadily refined the spirit of ensemble and the quality of playing from the orchestra to an extent that has hardly gone unnoticed. This is all the more remarkable in a world that tends to dote on singers while taking the musicians in the pit for granted." said Thomas May of The Washington Post.
In 1994, Kay Cameron began her tenure as the Music Director for Musical Theater and Television with The Center. Her regime boasts such works as the Words and Music Series, which included Bells Are Ringing with Faith Prince, Purlie with Stephanie Mills, and Where's Charley? The Center also self-produced the Sondheim Festival featuring 6 fully staged musicals, which received critical acclaim.
In 2002, under the leadership of Placido Domingo, The Washington Opera crossed international borders and reached Japan for a tri-production tour of Otello, Sly and Tosca.
Today the 64 musicians who hail from South Korea, Spain, England, Russia, Hungary, and all regions of North America are highly trained professionals who have attended the conservatories of Juilliard, the Eastman School of Music, Oberlin, the Curtis Institute, the Manhattan School of Music, and other leading music schools of the United States and Europe. Sixty-five percent of the members hold advanced degrees in their field.
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra members have performed with or been members of the National Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and many other prestigious orchestras.
Regular participation in the prestigious music festivals at Tanglewood, Aspen, Chautauqua, Spoleto, Grant Park, Grand Tetons, Marlboro, Meadowmount, and the Eastern Music Festival is not alien.
Additionally, many of the members give private musical instruction and serve on faculties of area institutions. Tutelage is provided at just about every institution of learning in the region including the University of Maryland, Catholic University of America.
American University, Howard University, Georgetown University, George Mason University, Shenandoah College-Conservatory of Music, the Peabody Conservatory of Music Preparatory Department, Towson State University, the Washington Conservatory, and the Levine School of Music.
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