James Conlon to stay at L.A. Opera at least through 2020-21 season

James Conlon conducts at Walt Disney Concert Hall on April 27, 2014.
James Conlon conducts at Walt Disney Concert Hall on April 27, 2014.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

James Conlon, the popular music director of the L.A. Opera celebrating his 10th anniversary with the company this year, will be sticking around for a while longer. Conlon has renewed his contract through the 2020-21 season, General Director Plácido Domingo announced Friday.

Domingo called Conlon’s contributions in Los Angeles “impossible to overstate.”

“The astounding energy and infectious enthusiasm that he brings to his work has made him a beloved figure for our audiences,” Domingo said in a statement. “Thanks to his prodigious musical talents, our magnificent orchestra sounds better and better every season. I myself have taken great pride in the numerous musical partnerships that James and I have shared — most recently in Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’ earlier this season — and I look forward to many more such collaborations.”

Conlon joined the L.A. Opera in 2006, succeeding conductor Kent Nagano. During his tenure, he has conducted a record number of performances: 314 stagings of 50 operas, starting with Verdi’s “La Traviata.” Later this month, he will conduct Mozart’s “The Abduction From the Seraglio.”


“My first 10 seasons with L.A. Opera have been enormously meaningful, and I am very happy to continue my associations with Plácido and Christopher,” Conlon said, referring to Christopher Koelsch, president and chief executive of the company since 2012. “I am especially proud of our orchestra and chorus, and their unwavering devotion and uncompromising artistic standards.”

Conlon, 66, is originally from New York — his debut was with the New York Philharmonic in 1974. He has served as principal conductor for the Paris National Opera, music director of the Cologne Opera and music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic. This season, Conlon became the first American to be named principal conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai in Turin, Italy.

In Los Angeles, Conlon hosts pre-performance talks for audiences at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and, in 2007, he launched a free community opera series held annually at downtown L.A.’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Marc Stern, chairman of the L.A. Opera board of directors, added that Conlon’s leadership over the past decade has “dramatically strengthened” the L.A. Opera orchestra and its reputation.


“His leadership and musical acumen have served as the backbone for our company’s artistic success,” Stern said. “I’m grateful that we can continue to rely on him as we drive the company forward.”

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