Great news for WNO: Philipe Auguin, celebrated leader of last year's Gotterdammerung anti-spectacular spectacular, is taking over as WNO music director. My praise for that show is here, and here's a positive mention in the '06 incarnation of the Wilson Lohengrin; Charles Downey's coverage here.
As Anne Midgette has noted, the company seems to be on the fence about whether it is to continue to aspire to the tier of American houses with a claim to international interest, or whether it is going to be a solid regional enterprise. Sure, some of that has to do with the amount of A-list talent they can muster, but it's a lot more about the degree to which the company seems to have a distinct mission and artistic personality. And that has a lot to do with leadership--leadership which, for the WNO, has seemed in absentia for the last few years.
I don't have the history to really judge Domingo's tenure--but as an audience member, the broad impression was more "PR goldmine + guaranteed chance to hear him" than compelling vision. Sounds like Fricke deserves a lot of credit for getting the orchestra to where they are today (which is a very good place to be) but the low-profile twilight of his tenure has also surely contributed to the general sense of drift.
So, in sum, the introduction of Auguin and the promise of a discirminating and steady hand for the company's musical fortunes is a very exciting turn indeed, and another reason to get stoked about tomorrow's Salome!