Obituary: former Washington National Opera music director Heinz Fricke, 88

Posted on: December 11, 2015

“Heinz Fricke, the East German conductor who had an unlikely late-career renaissance as the beloved music director of the Washington National Opera and the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, died Dec. 7 near Berlin,” writes Anne Midgette in Tuesday’s (12/8) Washington Post. “He was 88.” Born February 11, 1927, in Halberstadt, Germany, Fricke “rose to eminence in East Germany after World War II, taking over the helm of the Berlin State Opera (Staatsoper) in 1961, the same year the Berlin Wall was built. He led that ensemble, one of Germany’s most prestigious, for the next 30 years …Not until 1990 was he allowed to come to the United States. A protégé of the noted Austrian conductor Erich Kleiber, he had studied with some of the leading maestros of the 20th century…but the authorities preferred that he continue it on his home turf…In 1993, after a successful appearance leading ‘The Flying Dutchman’ with the Washington National Opera, Mr. Fricke—almost entirely unknown in the United States—took over as music director of that company and the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra…During an 18-year tenure, Mr. Fricke improved standards and discipline and replaced more than 20 players, one-third of the small orchestra, with his own hires.”

Posted December 11, 2015