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What to Hear Next Season: At the Opera

See my preview of the 2011-2012 opera season at

Washington National Opera’s Future An Uncertain One (Washingtonian, June 17):

The Plácido Domingo era at Washington National Opera officially ended this month. The company heads into uncertain territory, having just saved itself from bankruptcy and possible dissolution by finessing a desperate merger with the Kennedy Center earlier this year.

Who will be leading the company into the future? Rather than strong central leadership, WNO announced that it has appointed one of the company’s favorite opera directors, Francesca Zambello, to be its artistic advisor.

At the same time, current Chief Operating Officer Michael L. Mael has been bumped up to the position of executive director. If this sounds like a terrible idea, that’s because it is one. Zambello has many of the same negatives as Domingo­—her work as a director takes her all over the world, for example—but none of the glamour. If she does indeed push the idea of an opera company mounting musicals, it might finally finish the job on WNO’s subscriber base, after years of rising ticket prices.

The rosiest news for WNO is the appointment of Philippe Auguin as music director. Every score that Auguin has touched so far in Washington he has enriched with a perceptive knowledge, able to coax cohesive, multi-colored performances from the Opera House Orchestra. Along with the dynamic work of Christoph Eschenbach in the concert hall next door, Auguin’s tenure makes being a classical-music listener in Washington most exciting right now. Make a note of the three operas that Auguin will conduct next season at WNO. [Continue reading]

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