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Sian Edwards to Lead English National Opera

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sian Edwards, 31, who conducted three Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts last weekend, will today be named to head the prestigious English National Opera, according to officials.

By appointing her its music director, English National Opera (ENO) will become one of the few international music institutions to be led by a woman.

The decision is seen as somewhat risky--not because of Edwards’ sex--but because of her relatively young age and her slight experience at English National Opera. She has conducted only one production at the house, a revival of Prokofiev’s “The Gambler” in 1990, although she has conducted for Scottish Opera, Glyndebourne, the Edinburgh Festival and the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.

A native of Sussex, Edwards left England to study conducting in Leningrad with the veteran Ilya Musin. She returned steeped in Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich and astonished Sir Michael Tippett by taking on his unwieldy Fourth Symphony on short notice.

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Tippett recommended her to conduct his opera, “The Knot Garden,” at Covent Garden, where in April, 1988, she became the first woman to conduct. She was hired on staff at the Royal Opera, leaving last year to pursue an international career.

Edwards lives in Manchester in northwest England.

At ENO she joins Dennis Marks, head of the music on BBC television, on a team that takes over in July, 1993 from Peter Jonas and Mark Elder. The company, generally regarded among the most innovative in Britain, is continuing its tradition of plumping for youth. Jonas was 38 when he became general director and Elder, the music director, was 32.

Edwards’ London managers said she was in Ottawa and unavailable for comment.

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