City Desk

Sing for Your Subsidy

Placido DomingoTypically, the only time LL's Thursday-afternoon strolls through the John A. Wilson Building even get a whiff of celebrity are the occasional Dan Tangherlini sighting in the mayoral bullpen. (Governance rock star, that guy!) But not this week.

Yesterday afternoon, distinguished Spanish tenor and Washington National Opera general director Plácido Domingo spent more than an hour roaming the building with a pair of WNO bigwigs in tow, as well as an official photographer. (Yes, LL had his picture taken with the maestro.) His rounds took him to the offices of most councilmembers.

A couple of members asked for a command performance from the tenor, including Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander and Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who rated his pipes as "excellent."

Domingo treated Bowser and staff to a bit of Gounod's "Ave Maria." "We got a good taste, I think," she said. Her chief of staff, Joy Holland, chimed in: "The first 10 bars, which is a good taste."

So why exactly was Domingo roaming the Wilson Building halls? To ask for money, duh.

Later today, a panel of WNO bigwigs (not including Domingo) will appear before the council to make their case for a city subsidy. The mayor's proposed list of budget earmarks leaves the opera out in the cold, even though such cultural organizations as the Washington Ballet ($1 million), Ford's Theatre ($10 million), and the Ward 7 Arts Collaborative ($100,000) are currently in the money.

Domingo's appeal played up the need for greater resources for arts-education programs. He then had to be rushed out to rehearse for his upcoming role in Handel's Tamerlano.

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  • Mike Licht

    This is the danger of removing meaningful competitive, panel-reviewed grant programs from the public cultural funding process. Lobbying for noncompetitive funding is not only inherently unfair; it wastes the time of public officials in executive and legislative branches.

    This was recognized by Mayor Fenty's pal, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who reformed New York City cultural funding process, eliminating the sleaze of earmarks. NYC cultural organizations now compete for funds, and he funding of city-run cultural entities is governed by set formulas.

  • Michelle Boxer

    I had the opportunity to see first hand what the opera does for kids at the end of last year when we went as a family to a special performance where the opera taught kids about the value of education through the arts.

    I would support it!

    My only complaint is that I didn't get the opportunity to meet the master himself!