As the resident opera company of the Kennedy Center, Washington National Opera (WNO) draws on a rich history to offer high-quality grand opera featuring internationally acclaimed artists and productions. Under the directorship of WNO Music Director Philippe Auguin, the Washington National Opera Orchestra is the musical heartbeat of the company, playing for all WNO productions in the Kennedy Center Opera House.
Comprised of 61 musicians from around the nation and the world, the Orchestra has played under the baton of such famed conductors as Daniel Barenboim, Valery Gergiev, James Levine and Mstislav Rostropovich, as well as WNO Music Director Emeritus Heinz Fricke and former WNO General Director Plácido Domingo. Highlights of the Orchestra's history include performances of the world premiere of Menotti's Goya (1986), accompanying WNO on its tour to Japan (2002); and numerous recordings and broadcasts which have introduced WNO to audiences around the globe.
Orchestra members hail from China, Taiwan, Russia, Ukraine, New Zealand, South Korea, and Spain, and all regions of North America. Orchestra members and have trained at the leading conservatories in Europe and the United States, including Juilliard, Eastman, and the Curtis Institute, among others, and most hold advanced degrees in their field. Members earn their positions through a highly competitive audition process, and many remain with the company for years and decades, resulting in a cohesive group of artists keenly attuned to the nuances of making music with world-class opera artists.
The Orchestra's roots date back to the company's founding in 1956 as the Opera Society of Washington. As the small but intrepid group of opera lovers grew into an internationally recognized opera company, the musicians grew with it, and the orchestra was officially established as a professional orchestra in 1978. Today, the same musicians also constitute the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, the Center's resident orchestra which provides the music for most musicals and ballets in the Center's nine theaters and performance spaces, as well as the CBS television broadcast of the Emmy® Award-winning Kennedy Center Honors.