Philippe Auguin’s departure a troubling portent for WNO

Thu Jun 22, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Music director Philippe Augin will leave Washington National Opera at the end of the 2017-18 season.

In a late June surprise, Washington National Opera has announced the departure of music director Philippe Auguin. At the end of the 2017-2018 season the highly esteemed French conductor will receive the title of music director emeritus. According to WNO artistic director Francesca Zambello, Auguin is expected to return to conduct some productions in the future. The announcement did not include any information about Auguin’s next position.

By the time he has completed his eighth season next year, Auguin will have conducted seventeen productions at WNO. His work with the WNO Orchestra was often the best part of many of those productions, like the otherwise tepid La Bohème and the kooky Magic Flute, both in 2014, as well as the execrable Così fan tutte in 2012. Guest conductors in the Zambello era, some of whom could be in the running to replace Auguin, have been largely disappointing by comparison, with some exceptions, like Washington Concert Opera’s Antony Walker.

Anyone who was at the concert performance of Götterdämmerung in 2009 will remember how Auguin, replacing ailing music director Heinz Fricke, created a sensation from what could have been a disaster. His conducting of Wagner scores has been one of the delights for Washington opera lovers in the last eight years, including an extraordinary Tristan in 2013, a powerful Flying Dutchman in 2015, and the gorgeous Ring Cycle last year.

When Auguin was paired with an excellent stage director, as in David Alden’s shocking Lucia di Lammermoor in 2011, the results could be outstanding. Auguin’s work in Verdi scores has been equally fine, so it is fitting that his last performances as music director will be in a highly anticipated Don Carlo next March. It is likely, once again, to be a highlight of the season.


One Response to “Philippe Auguin’s departure a troubling portent for WNO”

  1. Posted Jun 22, 2017 at 5:32 pm by Laura Youens

    I am sorry to admit I have been so outraged by the WNO productions I have seen in recent years that I have simply quit going. I think Philippe Auguin’s loss is a significant one, but I think it needs to be followed by Francesca Zambello’s departure.

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