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October 5, 2010

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.


Posted by Tim Smith at 10:46 AM | | Comments (0)

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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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