Welcome to our history page. Our goal is to tell you our story: who we are, what we do, and how we got to be the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. Because of our multiple roles as an opera, ballet, and musical theater orchestra, there are often misconceptions. When we are in the pit performing opera for the WNO, we are listed in the program as “The Washington National Opera Orchestra.” When we play ballet and musical theater, the program reads “The Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.” We are one and the same: the same musicians, the same orchestra. We hope that you enjoy learning about us!

1971: The Kennedy Center Opens

1978: Creation of the KCOHO

Hanging Together: Labor Dissonance and Resolution

Heinz Fricke,

Music Director,


Plácido Domingo, Artistic and General Director, 1995-2011

Kennedy Center and WNO Affiliation, 2011

Philippe Auguin, Music Director, 2010-2018

Ring Cycle, 2016

Ballet from the 1990s to present

Kennedy Center Honors, Musical Theater and Messiah, from 1990s to present

2018: New Leadership

40th Anniversary, 2018

In the 2018-19 season, the orchestra will celebrate its 40th birthday, a milestone that inspires reflection on the past four decades. The KCOHO has come a long way since 1978, when a Washington Post article, written by music critic Joseph McLellan, announced the creation of the new orchestra. The headline read “Mouse That Roared,” a characterization that still describes the orchestra musicians’ spirit and resolve. Over the past four decades the orchestra has become a prominent driving force behind successful productions for the Washington National Opera and the Kennedy Center. Looking ahead to the next 40 years, the KCOHO will continue to make an important and robust contribution to the excellence of opera, ballet, and musical theater in the Washington arts community.