After 14 years, this is Grant Gershon’s last season at LA Opera. With Conlon’s contract extended and a new baton-wielder from Columbia taking over as Resident Conductor, there are big changes afoot. No announcement yet as to who will take over as chorusmaster, a role which Mr. Gershon also holds through this 2021-22 season. But it’s still early — that search should, and is likely to be conducted at the national level.
Gershon will continue at LA Master Chorale, of course, and changes like this are never as simple as the press release lays it out. Regardless of official or unspoken reasons for this shift (and the recent exodus of multiple LAO middle managers), this means one major thing for SoCal classical singers: within a year, hiring decisions regarding choristers for LA’s two AGMA houses in this sphere will no longer be dominated by a single person. (Let’s be clear: that circumstance is problematic in any city, regardless of who that person might be.)
We wish all the best to LAO, these three conductors and all those affected by these decisions. This should be a very interesting season, with Il Trovatore launching in about a week, and some of us already salivating over the upcoming Tannhaüser.
See the press release below, or check it out on LAO’s website.
Grammy Award-winning Music Director James Conlon extends contract; rising star Lina González-Granados to join as Resident Conductor
Grant Gershon to step down as Resident Conductor and Chorus Director at the end of the 2021/22 season
(Los Angeles) September 9, 2021 — As LA Opera gets ready to relaunch mainstage, in-person programming next weekend with Il Trovatore—its first full-scale production in 18 months—the company is moving to shape its future by extending its collaboration with its world-renowned Music Director, welcoming an exciting new conductor who will bring a vibrant new voice and vision to the company, and saying goodbye to a dear friend who has played a key role in building its extraordinary artistic legacy.
James Conlon has extended his contract as LA Opera’s Music Director through the 2024/25 season. Since taking on the role in 2006, he has conducted more than 400 performances with the company to date, leading 62 different operas, including two world premieres and 29 company premieres, demonstrating incredible command of the repertoire. He has conducted landmark productions including the 2010 Ring cycle, the 2013 Britten centenary festival, the 2015 “Figaro Trilogy” and the multi-year Recovered Voices project devoted to presenting the works of composers suppressed by the Nazis. His recordings of LA Opera productions have received four Grammy Awards, two respectively for The Ghosts of Versailles and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.
In addition to refining the LA Opera Orchestra into a world-class ensemble, he has become a familiar and much-admired presence in the community as a champion of public education, leading the enormously popular and insightful pre-performance talks. He is also a generous and frequent collaborator with local universities, museums, performing arts organizations and other cultural institutions. Through his podcasts and writings, he has been a lynchpin of LA Opera’s digital offerings throughout the COVID-19 epidemic. His 2021/22 season with LA Opera is bookended by Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Aida; he has to date conducted more than 500 performances of Verdi operas.
“I am extremely happy to continue my collaboration with all of the forces of LA Opera,” said James Conlon. “I am grateful for my close working relationship with the LA Opera Orchestra and Chorus, the music staff and stage team, Christopher Koelsch, the entire administration and the board of directors. Their support, and that of our public, gives me great hope for our continued mission of keeping opera thriving in today’s world. I am especially appreciative of Grant Gershon’s great contribution to the company over the past 14 years. He has stood for the highest levels of artistic excellence, and I will miss him very much, both on a professional and personal level. Finally, with great pleasure, I would like to welcome Lina González-Granados to our artistic team. Amongst the many talented young conductors in today’s world, she stood out as particularly well suited, not just for LA Opera, but for our city and region. I look forward to our mutual collaboration with great anticipation.”
Grant Gershon, the company’s Resident Conductor since 2012 and Chorus Director since 2007, has decided to step down from both of those positions so that he can devote more time to the continued expansion of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, where he is now celebrating his 20th anniversary season, and to his busy conducting career. He will continue with the company through the end of the current season. A search for Gershon’s replacement as chorus director will be launched imminently.
“I will be stepping down from my dual roles at LA Opera with the deepest affection and excitement for the future of this company,” said Grant Gershon. “I’m tremendously grateful to the members of the LA Opera Chorus and Orchestra for the countless transcendent and unforgettable musical experiences we have shared together. For some time, however, I’ve been aware that there are only so many hours in a day, and I’ve been increasingly busy with both the expanding activities of the Los Angeles Master Chorale and guest conducting projects outside of Los Angeles. Although I’m stepping away from LA Opera, I will always consider myself part of this wonderful family.”
Colombian-American conductor Lina González-Granados will succeed Gershon as Resident Conductor. Her appointment, which lasts through the end of the 2024/25 season, will have her conducting one mainstage production annually, as well as additional performances on the company’s Off Grand, On Now and Connects stages. Born and raised in Cali, Colombia, she has distinguished herself nationally and internationally as a deeply talented and fast-rising young conductor of symphonic and operatic repertoire.
She was the 2019 winner of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Sir Georg Solti International Conducting Competition and became the new Solti Conducting Apprentice with that orchestra, under the guidance of Riccardo Muti. She has also been a Conducting Fellow of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Seattle Symphony.
“It is my honor and pleasure to join the team at LA Opera,” said Lina González-Granados. “I feel so fortunate to become part of an organization with an incredible institutional legacy for artistic quality and community engagement, and to belong to a city that welcomes such an esteemed roster of conductors. I am especially thrilled to collaborate with James and the extraordinary musicians of the LA Opera Orchestra. I am so looking forward to bringing opera to the greater Los Angeles community, as well as helping to build the next generation of incredible, talented young opera singers.”
She is an active and fervent proponent for the inclusion and development of new works for chamber and large orchestra, especially music from Latin-American composers. She is the founder and artistic director of Unitas Ensemble, a Boston-based chamber orchestra that performs works by Latinx composers and provides access to free community performances for under-served communities.
During a busy 2021/22 season, she will be conducting throughout the U.S. and Europe, including The Barber of Seville at the Dallas Opera and concerts with the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Spanish National Orchestra, Barcelona Symphony, Nürnberger Symphoniker, Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini and Polish National Radio Symphony. Recent appearances include performances with the San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Seattle Symphony San Antonio Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic.
“We’re looking at our long-awaited resumption of full-scale productions as an opportunity not just to return to the way things were but to refine and expand our rich artistic profile,” said Christopher Koelsch. “I am truly honored to continue our long, happy and artistically fruitful collaboration with James Conlon, who has made such an incredible and indelible impact on the company and our community, and I can’t wait for our audiences to experience the artistry, creative imagination and civic leadership of Lina González-Granados. I have nothing but the greatest affection, admiration and gratitude for Grant Gershon and I’m truly sorry to see him leave. His decade-long dedication to shaping a signature sound for the LA Opera Chorus has been a boon for the company and its audiences alike.”
About LA Opera
Los Angeles is a city of enormous diversity and creativity, and LA Opera is dedicated to reflecting that vibrancy by redefining what opera can be, with thrilling performances, thought-provoking productions and innovative programming that preserves foundational works while making them feel fresh and compelling. The communal and curative power of opera is needed now more than ever before, given the extraordinary challenges of the time.
Even as LA Opera returns to the stage with world-class productions in theaters, the company will continue to create a wide range of digital content via its LA Opera On Now platform, which has accumulated more than 920,000 views since launching in the spring of 2020. The company is grateful to its supporters for helping to ensure that it has the resources needed to get through this unprecedented period. Those wanting to support LA Opera can visit LAOpera.org/donate.
For more information, go to www.laopera.org
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