Editor-in-Chief: Rebekah Tosado
Design: Rafael Prieto
Coming Attractions for the 2018 Season
The Washington Opera Society is at the forefront of bringing rising stars to our audiences. We are focused on the singing and the music! This new season will highlight great singers performing something familiar and something new for opera and operetta lovers!

The curtain will go up soon.... Don’t miss out....

Save the dates....
Tickets to go on sale Saturday, March 10 th .  

Friday, April 27 ~ Voices of Spring in Croatia.
Come to the Embassy of Croatia as we welcome springtime on the Adriatic with our opening concert of the season. Hosted by H.E. Pjer Šimunović. We will feature the magnificent sopranos Olga Orlovskaya and Natalie Conte, accompanied by tenors Timothy Augustin and Jesús Daniel Hernández who will serenade us with romance, intrigue, and high drama. Piano accompaniment and the Washington Opera Society String Ensemble conducted by Maestro Scott Beard will be featured.

Hors d'oeuvres, desserts, Croatian wines and beers served.
Tickets: $110 Front Reserved, $80 Middle Reserved, $60 Rear Unreserved.
Saturday, June 23 ~ Carmen by Georges Bizet .
You are cordially invited to attend our 2018 Gala performance of one of the most beloved operas in the repertoire in the Grand Ballroom of the Embassy of France. Making their Washington Opera Society debuts are leading artists Lisa Chavez appearing in the title role, Brandie Sutton as Micaela, Kevin Short as Escamillo, and Jonathan Tetelman as the dashing Don José. All of our principals have sung at the Met and/or other major companies. Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Maestro Julien Benichou.

Tickets: $90 Front Reserved, $75 Middle Reserved, $35 Rear Unreserved. Pre-performance cocktails and hors d'oeuvres served. Gala sit-down dinner with attending Ambassadors and the leading artists after the performance at additional cost. Those patrons purchasing dinner tickets will receive front seating to the performance gratis. 
Saturday, August 25 ~ Under the Stars in Acapulco.
In the magnificent garden of the Executive Director, Michael Reilly. Those who attended last season were treated to a glorious evening of sumptuous Latin American food, great singing, and a romantic evening under the stars. $40
Friday October 19 ~ Tribute to Dmitri Hvorostovsky.
 Featuring Argentine baritone Gustavo Ahualli and international singing sensation Victoria Canizzo with full orchestra conducted by Susana Frangi, Assistant Conductor at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. The Embassy of Austria. Dinner service included $120.
Start the Holiday Season Off with
Emmerich Kálmán’s Operetta "Die Csárdásfürstin"
Date and Venue to Be Announced.
Featuring the return to our stage of Suzanne Karpov who thrilled our audience in last year’s production of  L’elisir d’amore . Return to old Europe this Christmas season with one of the most beautiful German operetta’s in the repertoire. Chorus and orchestra conducted by Maestro Julien Benichou. Opulent dinner service included.
Tickets: $120 Front Reserved, $85 Middle Reserved, $40 Rear Unreserved. 
Julien Benichou Appointed Principal Conductor of
the Washington Opera Society
The Washington Opera Society  is pleased to announce the appointment of French conductor Julien Benichou as Principal Conductor of the Washington Opera Society orchestra. Taking time out of his busy schedule as Founder and Conductor of the Mid-Atlantic Symphony, the Chesapeake Youth Symphony, and the Southern Maryland Youth Symphony, the maestro was able to give us a rare interview: "I am incredibly excited to be starting with the Washington Opera Society, and look forward to work with the team on presenting great performances!"

Benichou was chosen for this important position because he shares the Company’s goals and Mission to help young artists get their start in the music and opera world as well as for his outstanding resume. The Maestro helped cast our June production of  Carmen  with 4 top lead singers, all of whom have sung at the Metropolitan Opera and/or other great venues. Starring in the baritone lead as Escamillo is Met singer, Kevin Short. "It is so exciting that we have such great principals for our June production of Carmen, I have worked with Kevin Short many times, and I am looking forward to discovering these other great singers!", stated Maestro Benichou.

Benichou’s father is the great French actor, Maurice Benichou.  "I enjoyed growing up with a mother and father that were actors, as a child I attended all the rehearsals and would know all the plays by heart. Having parents that are artists was a great help, even though having a well-known father could sometimes be intimidating”.  It seems that Julien has followed in his father’s greatness and has a host of credits to his own name including having recently conducted the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. The Russian people love music and culture and received the Maestro with open arms. Closer to home, he conducted the  Nutcracker  on behalf of the New York City Ballet this past December. 
Before his appointment as Principal Conductor, Maestro Benichou was the guest conductor for the Washington Opera Society’s 2017 productions of Rossini’s  La Cenerentola  at the Embassy of France and Donizetti’s  L’elisir d’amore  at the residence of the Ambassador of Colombia where his infectious energy and elegantly creative force greatly pleased our audiences.   

The Maestro’s deep interest in youth and music education is sure to enhance the Washington Opera Society’s appeal to music lovers of all ages. He has taken the members of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra on three oversees tours, an experience he described as “sacred.” His involvement with our soon-to-be launched Scholarship Program, which will aid aspiring voice and music students at universities in Washington, DC, will be a critical factor in this Program’s success. Ensuring that the next generation of young people understand and appreciate opera and classical music is a huge challenge for our young Company.  

Benichou received a graduate performance diploma from the Peabody Conservatory a master's degree in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University and did further graduate studies at Yale University.

The Washington Opera Society is excited to share Maestro Benichou’s amazing talent and enthusiasm this season as he conducts Bizet’s  Carmen  in the ballroom of the Embassy of France on June 23, and Kálmán’s  Die Csárdásfürstin  in the end of 2018's season.

Washington Opera Society Elects New Board for 2018
At a luncheon meeting in Deale, Maryland on December 3, 2017, the Company gathered at the seaside home of music producer, Bob Israel to cast their nets wide and deep to elect a proactive Board of Directors, Council of Advisors, and associated friends to guide the Company forward in the new year. Organized by Company Founder and Executive Director Michael Reilly, the gracious home on the Chesapeake Bay was the setting for a winter meeting of many of Washington’s leading arts and business people. Hosts Bob Israel and wife Jeannette Johnson set the stage for a dynamic group discussion about bringing the WOS to the forefront of the arts world in Washington, DC. Elected to the Board for 2018 are:

Malaysian-born  Alex Lok , formerly with the World Bank Group Trade Finance department and a business person, has been elected  President of the Board of Directors.  Alex is well-suited for this lofty position utilizing his multilingual skills and experience in international business affairs working with multinational corporations, international organizations and the diplomatic corps.

Famed music producer and promoter in Washington, DC, Robert Israel of Bob Israel Music has been named Vice President of the Board . Bob is well-known in Washington’s music circles as one of the foremost producers and promoters of personalities such as Denyce Graves, Chick Corea, Dizzy Gillespie, and a host of other great musicians spanning the world of jazz, opera, classical, and popular music. 

Shanghai-born Jiajun Ye, MBA, CPA has been appointed Treasurer of the Company and will complement John Wall, CPA who serves as the WOS accountant.  Founding Member Rafael A. Prieto continues to serve as Secretary of the Board, web designer, tech consultant, and program designer. 

Also appointed to serve on the Board is Viennese-born World Bank economist Siegfried Zottel and well-known Maryland plastic surgeon, Dr. Donald Kress . Siegfried will work on issues relating to bringing young people into our audiences, which is a priority for our Company. Dr. Kress promises to bring his experience in the Maryland business community to support our great Company.

Rounding out the business side of the Board are great artists in their own right : Dr. Robert Scott Beard has been reappointed Artistic Director . Scott is also the Provost of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, a well-known recording artist, and 2006 West Virginia Music Teacher “Musician of the Year” in West Virginia in 2006. Maestro Julien Benichou has been appointed Principal Conductor. Adding their names to this illustrious group of newcomers are founding members Doria Kaplan , Barbara Bennett , and Cary Pollak .

Washingtonian  Anne L. Howard-Tristani  has been appointed to the  Council of Advisors . Anne is President of  Howard Tristani International Consulting , a Government Relations, Public Affairs and Higher-Education firm in the D.C. area. Anne serves on the Boards of  The Embassy Series The  National Museum of African Art  of the Smithsonian Institution and, on the Advisory Council of the  United Nations Association of the National Capital Area . She is a walking-talking museum and library of her famous Uncle, Hubert H. Humphrey, former Minnesota Senator, Vice President to Lyndon B. Johnson, and Presidential candidate. 

Included in this tapestry of the WOS all-stars on the Council of Advisors will be opera aficionados Col. James Smith, USAF Ret ., and Stefan M. Lopatkiewicz Esq. , General Counsel for Eutelsat America , the U.S. subsidiary of the French satellite company Eutelsat. Finally, the Company is pleased to appoint Rebekah Tosado, Esq. a prominent Washington government policy advisor as Editor-in-Chief of our newsletter-- HighNotes. 

Welcome new and old members! With this array of stunning artists and business people, Washington audiences will be treated to the best of the world of opera. The curtain goes up on April 27 th for what promises to be a super season of wonderful opera, grand settings, and extravagant social evenings.

Mourning the Loss of Dmitri Hvorostovsky
On November 22, 2017, the opera world lost Dmitri Hvorostovsky, the charismatic Siberian baritone who won critical acclaim and was known for his deep, burgundy tone and dashing good looks. Hvorostovsky passed away at the age of 55 leaving behind adoring fans across the world. He became an overnight sensation after winning the title of Cardiff Singer of the World in 1989, performed in the major opera houses across the globe, and was hailed as one of the world’s greatest baritones. The American Soprano Renée Fleming has said there was no voice as beautiful as his.

Hvorostovsky escaped street-gang life as a teenager in the grim Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Despite the region’s cultural isolation at the time, Hvorostovsky developed his talent and entered the Krasnoyarsk conservatory. He graduated from the conservatory in 1986, just after Mikhail S. Gorbachev came to power and allowed greater freedom for artists to travel. Performances throughout Europe followed and in 1995 he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He performed some 180 performances at the Met alone, including   “Eugene Onegin,” “La Traviata,” “Rigoletto,” “Il Trovatore,” “Don Carlo,” “Un Ballo in Maschera,” and “Simon Boccanegra” among others. 

Hvorostovsky was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015 and retired from the opera stage in June 2016, but returned to perform “ Il Trovatore ” at the Met between treatments in the fall of 2016. During the Met’s 50th anniversary gala in May of 2017, he stunned the audience by making an unscheduled appearance performing an aria from “ Rigoletto .” It was some 30 years before that Hvorostovsky performed the role of Marullo in the same opera when making his professional debut at the Krasnoyarsk Opera House.

Please join WOS for a special tribute to Dmitri Hvorostovsky on October 19, 2018 at the Embassy of Austria.

Surtitles: Helping Opera Audiences Get It!
Surtitles™ , also known as supertitles , are translated or transcribed lyrics or dialogue projected above a stage or displayed on a screen, commonly used in opera or in other musical performances. The word "surtitle" comes from the French language "sur", meaning "over" or "on", and the English language word "title". The word Surtitle is a trademark of the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto.

Supertitles, as they are commonly referred to in the U.S., are tremendously helpful, and only tend to be distracting if they are not done well. Similar to the subtitles on a foreign film, the supertitles can keep audiences of every level of the opera experience engaged in both the story and in the lives of the characters. Audiences now expect to know in detail what words are being sung, as they would for the dialogue in a subtitled foreign film. No longer do we sit in the dark for hours at a time, listening to operas with only the vaguest idea of what is actually going on.

Surtitles are used either to translate the meaning of the lyrics into the audience's language, or to transcribe lyrics that may be difficult to understand in the sung form. The two possible types of presentation of surtitles are as “projected text”, or as the “electronic libretto system”. Surtitles are becoming more important in allowing patrons who are hard of hearing or deaf to enjoy theatre productions more fully.

Generally projected above the theatre's proscenium arch (but, alternately, on either side of the stage), surtitles are usually displayed using a supertitling machine. The text must be prepared beforehand, as in subtitles . Originally, translations would be broken up into small pieces and photographed onto slides that could be projected onto a screen above the stage, but most companies now use a combination of video projectors and computers. The subtitling of live opera has developed rapidly, both in the sophistication of the hardware and software, and in the subtlety of the application. 

When surtitles first appeared, some opera purists were outraged. There are those who still find surtitles intrusive and distracting. As the new technology has significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated the distraction, the outcry has lessened over the past two decades. Newcomers to Opera love surtitles.  Titles are the best means we have to eliminate Opera’s language barrier, and for that reason alone, they’re here to stay!

Surtitles not translated correctly or timed well can be a distraction. The true dramatic meaning of a passage can be confused or lost in a bad translation. Also, comic moments, where the punchline for a joke is revealed before the singer sings it or the music amplifies it, can ruin a special moment. Around the world, thousands have come to enjoy opera (who wouldn’t have previously) as the supertitles now make Opera accessible to them.

At some companies, poor translations and technical glitches have led to unintentional comedy. In the early days, a Houston Opera production of Tosca had Tosca's line " Ma falle gli occhi neri! (But make the eyes black!)" was translated as "Give her black eyes." Even the most committed soprano would find it difficult to fly into an indignant rage while the audience is howling with laughter.

The Canadian Opera Company (COC) of Toronto
John Leberg developed the Surtitle system for the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto in 1983, when he was the company's Director of Operations. The New York City Opera was the first American opera company to use surtitles, in 1983.  "The Canadians have created something that makes opera understandable and accessible to many who love the music but can't understand the words. It's called SURTITLES."  ( The New York Times, September 23, 1983.) 

The COC's original process of SURTITLES TM projection utilized slides and slide projectors. In June, 1991, for the COC's new production of Così Fan Tutte , the process was modified to video projection. The video images are now stored on computer diskettes to permit quick, low-cost editing and to simplify storage. Each video image consists of one surtitle corresponding to the sung text. Images are numbered and the corresponding number is transferred to a vocal score used in the operation of the video projector. The surtitle is given an insertion point in the score for the surtitle's entry and exit. An operator will push a button at the marked point when following the music. 

The Met
The Met was late to use Surtitles, partly out of stubbornness (Metropolitan Opera's Music Director James Levine and General Manager Joe Volpe mistrusted them), and partly because the 3,800-seat theater was too big for projections to work properly. The $2.7 million solution was to install individual screens on the back of the seat in front of the opera goer. Seat-back titling premiered at the Met in the 1995 season-opening production of Otello featuring Plácido Domingo. This system, which uses individual display screens on the seat backs, is so different from the standard supertitles that it goes by its own copyrighted name: Met Titles .

From some faithful Opera patrons: “I greatly appreciate the SURTITLES, they add enormously to my enjoyment of the operas.”  “Congratulations! I heartily endorse the SURTITLES. They were beautifully translated and tastefully projected.”

Washington Opera Society
WOS does not currently use Surtitles for a variety of reasons: using Surtitles can be very costly, they do not exist for rare operas, and practically speaking, they cannot be easily used in the small venues of many of WOS’s performances. WOS has chosen instead to use narration, which for many can provide a more intimate experience than Surtitles. With further development of subtitling, however, the use of Surtitles in WOS productions remains a possibility. 

-- Many thanks to WOS Board Member Doria Kaplan for this article.
Washington Opera Society in the News...
Those of you daytime radio folks may have tuned in to WOL 95.9 FM in December and heard Michael Reilly, Executive Director of the Washington Opera Society and local soprano, Nicole Butler being interviewed on the “ Real  Talk ” radio program hosted by Dr. Ikechi Nnawuchi, MD, Medical Director for MBI Health Services, whose passion for opera led him to interview 2 leading Washingtonians who live in the world of opera. Michael Reilly, spoke of efforts by his Company to reach out to minorities to discover opera as a living part of our musical culture.

Ms. Butler, who is an accomplished professional in the banking industry both in Washington and in New York City now and entrepreneur and opera singer, discovered her love for opera and performance and performs both locally and internationally. In addition to performing with WOS in this summer’s Carmen as Frasquita, she will be performing as guest artist in Rome and Florence this May.”  She spoke of her upbringing in Chicago being raised by a single mother, who was also an opera singer. Adding to this distinguished panel was Washington personality, Rockefeller (Rocky) Twyman, publicist for the show. Michael Reilly spoke about The Washington Opera Society being at the forefront of aiding minorities and young people in their careers.  “Our productions include more Latin American, African-American, and other minorities than one would expect to see in an opera, because Washington is a rich resource for great voices and we want to make sure to give everyone a chance to be heard”. The WOS production of Carmen at the Embassy of France on June 23 rd  will include Ms. Butler as Carmen’s friend, Frasquita. Leading the all-star cast will be Lisa Chavez, baritone Kevin Short, Brandie Sutton, and Jonathan Tetelman. WOL is the urban talk radio station in Washington, DC and is the flagship station of Radio One. 

For more information, go to our website: