Fricke steps down at WNO
After 18 years and a recent bout of ill-health that kept him off the Washington National Opera podium for more than a year, Heinz Fricke, the music director of WNO and the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, has announced his retirement. Henceforth, he will bear the title of Music Director Emeritus.
During his tenure, Fricke significantly improved the level of the orchestra, and oversaw the hiring of more than two-thirds of its 61 players. He "brought the orchestra to a level that was unimaginable before his arrival," said Greg Drone, a principal horn player and the chairman of the orchestra committee. Fricke played a large hand in the opera's development as a Wagner house.
"Over the past decade, Music Director Heinz Fricke has turned the Washington National Opera Orchestra into an excellent ensemble," Tim Page wrote in 2007, in a review of "Die Walküre."
Due to the conductor's recent health problems, WNO has been searching for his successor since 2008, and plans to announce it later this season. One can only hope that the orchestra's palpable enthusiasm for Philippe Auguin after he replaced Fricke, most impressively, in last season's "Götterdämmerung" is an indication that he may be a longer-term replacement.
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