Placido Domingo To Leave Washington National Opera

Placido Domingo

Placido Domingo performs during the dress rehearsal for Il Postino at the Los Angeles Opera on Sept. 21. The famed 69-year-old Spanish tenor announced Monday he will leave the Washington National Opera when his contract expires next year. Matt Sayles/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Matt Sayles/AP

Renowned opera singer Placido Domingo announced Monday he will leave the Washington National Opera when his contract expires next year.

The famed 69-year-old Spanish tenor has been artistic director of the Washington National Opera since 1996 and general director since 2003. The news comes a week after Domingo announced he will stay on as general director of the Los Angeles Opera for two more years.

When Domingo became the Washington National Opera's artistic director, opera fans in the city were ecstatic. He attracted world-class musicians to the nation's capital and started a young artists program and popular, live simulcasts.

Domingo is known for keeping an extremely busy schedule, performing and conducting around the world as well as running the L.A. Opera.

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 the 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.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report

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