Robert Spano Named Music Director of Washington National Opera

By Francisco Salazar

The Washington National Opera has announced the appointment of conductor Robert Spano as Music Director of the WNO, beginning in the 2025–2026 season.

Spano will become the music director designate, effective immediately until his initial three-year term begins in September 2025.

In the new position, Spano will provide musical leadership for the company, overseeing the Washington National Opera Orchestra, Chorus, and music staff. He will also work closely with WNO’s Artistic Director Francesca Zambello.

In a statement, Music Director Designate Robert Spano said, “I am thrilled to be joining the Washington National Opera as its next music director. In 2021, I had the opportunity to work with the company and its excellent orchestra in the extraordinary commissioning project, ‘Written in Stone.’ This company is well known for its vision, and I am tremendously excited to collaborate with both Timothy O’Leary and Francesca Zambello in what I know will be an exciting future.”

Spano made his debut with the company in 2022 with the world premiere of “Written in Stone.”

He joins an eminent group of former WNO Music Directors including Heinz Fricke (1993–2010), Paul Callaway (1956–1967), John Mauceri (1980–1982), and Philippe Auguin (2010–2018). Evan Rogister was appointed as principal conductor in 2018 and will continue in this role through the end of the 2024–2025 season.

In a statement  General Director Timothy O’Leary added, “Robert Spano is one of the world’s most respected and beloved conductors, and he has a particular talent for leadership as a music director, a position he has held to acclaim several times in the symphony world, but not yet in the opera world,”“When our WNO Orchestra musicians worked with him on Written in Stone—an ambitious, complex, and meaningful project for our company—there was an instant rapport and musical bond. We are thrilled to welcome him to the WNO family.”

He added, “Francesca and I are so grateful to Evan Rogister for his extraordinary work and collaboration. He is in high demand at the major houses and festivals of the world, and WNO has been fortunate to have him for seven seasons as our Principal Conductor. Since 2018, Evan has led the WNO Orchestra and Chorus, performing at a tremendously high levels in acclaimed productions of Elektra, Roméo et Juliette, and many others. During his tenure, he auditioned and appointed 15% of the orchestra’s membership, including six musicians in leadership roles, presiding over a period of sustained artistic growth and recognition for the caliber of the orchestra. Evan has also prioritized the mentorship WNO’s Cafritz Young Artists and he initiated WNO’s partnership with the Solti Foundation to develop operatic experience in young conductors. He is also one of the great colleagues in this business, whose conscientious leadership during the pandemic was especially invaluable. We look forward to cheering on his continued success on the international operatic scene.”

Artistic Director Francesca Zambello added, “I’ve known Robert’s work for decades, when we were both emerging artists at BAM in the ‘90s. One of our first
collaborations was in 1995 in the Covent Garden production of Billy Budd. I have always been impressed by his mastery of navigating the most complex forces in opera, from the Seattle Opera Ring cycle to Gruppen to our most recent collaboration on Mozart’s Idomeneo at Aspen Music Festival. At Aspen, I have seen Robert’s fierce commitment to mentoring the next generation of singers and conductors—this same commitment is embedded in WNO’s DNA and is an important aspect of our mission. He has also spent his career building and developing orchestras and I know he will continue that tradition here. I look
forward to an artistic partnership that not only nurtures the artists within the company but develops deeper connections to our audiences and community.”