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August 10, 2009

Heinz Fricke withdraws from Washington National Opera fall engagements

Health issues have caused Washington National Opera music director Heinz Fricke to withdraw from conducting the company's production of Ariadne auf Naxos (Oct. 24 - Nov. 13) and a concert version of Götterdämmerung (Nov. 7 and 15). Andreas Delfs will take over the Strauss work, Philippe Auguin the Wagner. Last season, Fricke had to skip WNO's Siegfried production as well; he was recovering from heart surgery.

A press release quotes Fricke from his home base, Berlin: “I was so looking forward to being in Washington with my orchestra, especially for such stunning works as Ariadne and Götterdämmerung. Ultimately though, it is in my best interest to heed my doctors’ advice and therefore regret I am not able to make the trip to Washington. Given the reality of the situation, I am honored to pass the baton to maestros Delfs and Auguin; WNO audiences should be quite pleased to have such experts in the pit.”

From WNO's general director Plácido Domingo: “Heinz Fricke is a beloved member of the WNO family, and a maestro in the truest sense of the word. His expertise in the music of Strauss, with whom he studied, and of Wagner would have made for thrilling performances. We are all disappointed that he is not able to be with us this fall, but are pleased that his health is progressing well. We wish him all the best.”

Delfs and Auguin will be making their WNO debuts. 

Posted by Tim Smith at 4:57 PM | | Comments (2)


I hate saying this, hate it because Fricke did such a wonderful job improving the orchestra, but the Washington National Opera should think about getting a new music director. Who, for example, is auditioning the new players in the orchestra?

Maestro Fricke, at least until 2004 sat on auditions as far as I know. I played (am a pianist/coach) for some of them. He was there!

Thanks for commenting. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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