Music Director, Los Angeles Opera
One of today’s preeminent conductors, James Conlon has cultivated a vast symphonic, operatic and choral repertoire, and developed enduring relationships with the world’s most prestigious symphony orchestras and opera houses. He became Music Director of Los Angeles Opera beginning with the 2006-07 season, and is also currently Music Director of the Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has been Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival since 1979. Mr. Conlon served as Principal Conductor of the Paris National Opera (1995-2004); General Music Director of the City of Cologne, Germany (1989-2002); and Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic (1983-1991). Since his New York Philharmonic debut in 1974, Mr. Conlon has appeared as guest conductor with many of the world’s most prestigious orchestras.
Mr. Conlon was guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as the Dresden Staatskapelle, Wiener Symphoniker, L’Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Orchestre National de France, Münchner Philharmoniker, and the Russian National Philharmonic.
It was while still a student at Juilliard in 1972 that Mr. Conlon came to national attention, after Maria Callas recommended that he step in for an ailing Thomas Schippers to lead Juilliard’s production of La Bohème. That same year, he led Juilliard chamber musicians and actors in a performance of Stravinsky’s l’histoire du soldat. The actors for that performance were Kevin Kline and David Odgen Stiers.
During his inaugural season at the LA Opera, Mr. Conlon conducted Tannhäuser, Don Carlo, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, La traviata and a special free community performance of Britten’s chamber opera Noye’s Fludde. He will conduct seven Wagnerian works at the LA Opera over the next four years, including the first ever performance in LA of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. During the 2007-08 season Mr. Conlon conducts five productions at LA Opera: Fidelio, Jenufa, Tristan und Isolde, Otello, and a double bill of Viktor Ullmann’s The Broken Jug (Der zerbrochene Krug), an American premiere, and Alexander Zemlinsky’s The Dwarf (Der Zwerg). This double bill is the first of a series of annual productions of music entitled Recovered Voices.
In an effort to raise public consciousness to the significance of works of composers whose lives and compositions were affected by the Nazi regime, Mr. Conlon has devoted himself to extensive programming of this music in North America and Europe, including the works of such composers as Alexander von Zemlinsky, Viktor Ullmann, Pavel Haas, Kurt Weill, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Karl-Amadeus Hartmann, Erwin Schulhoff, and Ernest Krenek. In Los Angeles, Mr. Conlon has inaugurated a multi-year project entitled Recovered Voices, during which he will bring the music of composers affected by the Nazi regime to the LA Opera stage. The series began with two concerts of operatic excerpts last season, and subsequently will include full-scale productions of complete operas by Zemlinsky, Ullmann, Schreker and Braunfels in future seasons, conducted by Mr. Conlon. As Music Director of the Ravinia Festival, each summer Mr. Conlon presents a different composer from this group with the Chicago Symphon Orchestra. He has already highlighted works of Viktor Ullman and Erwin Schulhoff, and will focus on Alexander Zemlinsky during the summer of 2007. A production conceived by Mr. Conlon of Ullman’s The Kaiser From Atlantis (written while interned in the concentration camp of Terezin) has traveled extensively since its first showing in New York. Produced in cooperation with The Juilliard School, it has since been reprised at the Spoleto Festival in Italy, the Ravinia Festival, in cooperation with the New World Symphony, The Houston Grand Opera and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Mr. Conlon is committed to working with young pre-professional musicians and, in addition to his continual work with Juilliard ensembles, has devoted time to teaching and conducting at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Tanglewood Music Center, the New World Symphony, and the European Community Youth Orchestra. He is actively involved in the Ravinia Festival’s Steans Institute for Young Artists as well as Ravinia’s model community outreach and education programs, and plans to help lead and expand educational projects during his tenure at Los Angeles Opera. Mr. Conlon has been active with the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition since 1997, where he not only conducts the final round of the competition, but also initiated a program in which he leads master classes and coaches finalists.
Mr. Conlon has recorded for EMI, SONY Classical, ERATO, CAPRICCIO and TELARC and has won awards for his recordings of the works of Alexander Zemlinsky. PBS recently aired a series of six shows hosted by Mr. Conlon entitled “Encore”, part of an ongoing series of documentaries on his work with the finalists of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Mr. Conlon recently collaborated with director Kenneth Branagh on a film adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
Mr. Conlon received one of five Opera News Awards given for the first time in recognition of distinguished contributions from leading figures in the world of opera. In 1999, he received the Zemlinsky Prize for his efforts in bringing the composer’s music to international attention. Mr. Conlon was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music Degree by The Juilliard School in May 2004. He was named an Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 1996, and in September 2004 was promoted to Commander. In September 2002, James Conlon received France’s highest distinction from the President of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac—the Légion d’Honneur.