Washington DC’s former maestro has died

Heinz Fricke, the East German who was music director of Washington National Opera from 1993 to 2008, died on Monday in Berlin at the age of 88, it has been announced.

Before his American period, Fricke served the East German regime as music director of the Staatsoper under den Linden for 30 years from 1961. He conducted 180 operas and won the regime’s state prize.
Schweizer Schriftsteller und Dramaturg ("Stiller", "Homo Faber", "Andorra"), aufgenommen im Dezember 1989.

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  • Jon H says:

    Was impressive to see him conducting the Ring in his 80s.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    Maestro Fricke did a lot to improve the Washington Opera Orchestra – though it is still far from world class. He’ll be missed.

  • Brendan Joyce says:

    He was good enough to come and conduct the University of Maryland Symphony — a student orchestra — and I’ll remember that Brahms 2 for a long time to come. Generous, friendly musician.

  • MacroV says:

    Unless you have seen something dubious in his Stasi file, I would take exception to the characterization of his having “served the East German regime,” which implies something other than working at a state institution, as did Masur, Tennstedt (though he defected), Sanderling, Vaclav Neumann, and others.

    I never knew much about him, except seeing him conduct Die Walkure in Washington a few years ago. Assumed he was a crusty old “German opera” guy, who understood the genre even if not a major household name.

    • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

      Fully agree with your first paragraph, Macrov. Take note, Norman, and stop insinuating. I heard a marvelous Tristan under Heinz Fricke in Berlin in the early 1990s, before he left for DC. Daniel Barenboim tried, unsuccessfully, to invite him back to Berlin to conduct.

  • Respect says:

    With apologies to those here, in the period around 2000, one could in fact easily find several articles in the archives of the Major Berlin papers of the investigations and accusations against Fricke, I’ve seen them myself. But my reading left me with the impression that although he was the government’s representative in the the theater, there was inconclusive evidence at best that he did work that damaged his colleagues.

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