Philippe Auguin named music director of Washington National Opera

Philippe Auguin, one of the key ingredients in Washington National Opera's exceptional concert-version performance of "Gotterdammerung" last season, has been named music director of the company and the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. He succeeds Heinz Fricke, who stepped down due to health issues.

The French-born Auguin jumps into the job this week, leading the WNO production of "Salome," which opens Thursday at the Kennedy Center. He'll also conduct most performances of the company's "Madama Butterfly" production later in the season.

Auguin's impressive resume includes engagements at the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, La Scala and many other notable houses; his major mentors were Georg Solti and Herbert von Karajan.

Members of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra were informed Monday night and greeted the news warmly. In a statement released Tuesday, chairman of the orchestra Greg Drone said:

“From the very first downbeat of our first rehearsals with him last year, the orchestra felt an instant connection ..."

Auguin expressed the same feeling. "From the moment I stepped onto the podium, I felt a special rapport with the talented musicians of the orchestra," he said in a statement.

The WNO music director post involves a strong relationship with the Kennedy Center -- the two organizations share 61 orchestra musicians -- so if, as recent talk has it, the center will eventually bring the opera company under its umbrella, this synergy will be important. The enthusiasm for Auguin could help any future transition, too.

Outgoing WNO general director Placido Domingo praised the conductor's "stunning 'Gotterdammerung' concerts" and predicted "many exciting performances" to come.


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