Lynne Cheney, head of the National Endowment for the Humanities since 1986, will be nominated for another four-year term, according to a White House spokesman. Cheney is the wife of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Her nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.
- IN MANAUS, BRAZIL, after eight decades of slow decay, the renovated Teatro Amazonas has opened a new season of opera.The 659-seat opera house, constructed in the late 19th century in belle epoque style, was two-thirds full on March 17 for an evening of Brazilian classical music, arias and part of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos' ballet "The Amazon Forest."
The audience, in tuxedos and evening gowns, were special guests of Amazonino Mendes, governor of the state of Amazonas. He authorized the $8 million, three-year renovation of the building, which first opened its doors in 1896 when a rubber boom made Manaus one of the richest cities in the world. Mendes worked with Fernando Bicudo, director of the Brazilian company Opera Brasil, to restore the theater to its original glory.
About 300 people demonstrated on opening night to protest the cost of the renovation at a time of economic crisis. Inflation in Brazil was 2,700 percent during the past 12 months, and poverty is widespread. The night's entertainment also suffered from technical difficulties in the sound system.
Tenor Placido Domingo will sing in Manaus, appearing as Don Jose in Bizet's "Carmen" March 29, with Jadranka Jovanovich in the title role.
The neo-classical opera house with its multicolored, tiled dome roof, painted ceiling by Crispim de Amaral and plush interior with velvet-covered chairs, was built with the money of the rubber barons who dominated the city in the late 1800s - men who boasted of their sophistication, spoke French and sent their white shirts to be laundered in Europe. Chandeliers and mirrors came from Venice, tiles from Marseilles, marble from Carrara and lampshades from Paris.
When the rubber boom fizzled, the Teatro Amazonas, about 1,700 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro, fell silent, and after 1907 the theater was mostly abandoned, with only an occasional play or concert performed on its once glorious stage. By the early 1980s, time, rain and termites had nearly destroyed the building.
The recent head-to-toe renovation included a paint job for the pink pastel facade, 36,000 new tiles and a sound system. More than 3,000 gallons of insecticide were injected into the wood to prevent termites from eating the building a second time. A new Steinway piano was treated for nine months so that it could endure the jungle humidity.
The legendary rise and fall of the Teatro Amazonas was the subject of German director Werner Herzog's movie, "Fitzcarraldo."
- THE OPERA-BASTILLE, the controversial new opera house in Paris, also made its debut on March 17, nine months behind schedule, with a performance of Hector Berlioz's "The Trojans." The four-hour, five-act complete version of the monumental work was directed by Pier-Luigi Pizzi and conducted by Myung Whun Chung. On stage were tenors Gary Bachlund and George Gray alternating in the title role, with Grace Bumbry as the Trojan prophetess, Cassandra, and Shirley Verrett as Dido, queen of Carthage.
- NASHVILLE'S GRAND OLE OPRY HOUSE has a new stage, and the old one may be sold piece by piece. "Just like they did with the Berlin Wall," said Opry House manager Jerry Strobel.
The old stage, where stars like Loretta Lynn, Randy Travis and Roy Acuff have performed since 1974, wore out and developed cracks and could not be sanded any more. The new beechwood stage, covering 5,850 square feet, was imported from Denmark for more than $50,000.