Kennedy Center and WNO affiliation, 2011

  Photo credit: Ning Fan

Photo credit: Ning Fan

By the end of the decade, despite its landmark achievements, the WNO was in serious financial trouble. In 2009, having already performed the first three operas in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, WNO planned to mount the final installment, Götterdämmerung, as part of the complete cycle. But financial circumstances forced the company to cancel the cycle; Götterdämmerung received only two concert performances (under the baton of future Music Director Philippe Auguin). It would be seven more years before the company would finally present The American Ring in 2016.

In the 2010-11 season, the WNO reduced the number of opera productions to five. To save the WNO from bankruptcy, the Kennedy Center took control of the company. WNO lifelong chairman Betty Brown Casey and Jacqueline B. Mars generously paid down the WNO’s vast debts, thus enabling the affiliation. Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser and WNO board chairman Kenneth Feinberg were optimistic that the affiliation would eventually lead to an expansion from five productions back to seven or eight.