26 August 2014

Conductor James Conlon to Depart Ravinia Music Director Post Following 2015 Season

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A merican conductor James Conlon has announced that he will depart his post as music director of Chicago's Ravinia Festival following the 2015 season.  

Conlon, 64, also serves as the music director at both Los Angeles Opera and the Cincinnati May Festival and maintains a busy schedule of national and international conducting engagements. His contract with Ravinia, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was set to expire at the conclusion of the current season, but on Tuesday, the festival announced that Conlon had agreed to extend his tenure through the end of the 2015 season. Conlon, who has served as the festival's music director for more than a decade, will have been just the fourth conductor to hold the post in since it was created in 1964 by Seiji Ozwa. Prior to Conlon, Ravinia's music directorship was held by Christoph Eschenbach, James Levine and Ozawa.

"Everything has its time, and after 11 years I feel it is the moment to pass on this responsibility," Conlon said in a statement issued by the festival. "I have worked year-round, including every summer, since 1974. There are things I wish to accomplish, both musical and personal, and I need dedicated time to realize these projects."

In his final season at Ravinia, Conlon is scheduled to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in five concerts at the festival's 3,500-seat outdoor pavilion, as well as a sixth concert in its 850-seat indoor theater. On July 22, Conlon will lead the CSO in a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 with Garrick Ohlsson; on July 23, he will conduct the orchestra in excerpts from Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina, a traversal of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Lise de la Salle; and on July 29, he will pace a performance comprised of Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring Jorge Federico Osorio, and Zemlinsky's tone poem Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid). Conlon will also lead the festival's Gala concert on August 1, featuring Maxim Vengerov, and will conclude his Ravinia tenure with a concert performance of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman.

In February of last year, Conlon extended his contract as LA Opera's music director through the company's 2017-18 season. Last August, he was forced to withdraw from several performances at Ravinia and Los Angeles Opera after undergoing surgery to remove an inflamed portion of his colon. This month, he paced an acclaimed concert performance of Salome at Ravinia, and next month he opens the Los Angeles Opera season leading performances of La Traviata. In November, he will conduct performances of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Metropolitan Opera, and in February and March, he is back on the LA Opera podium for performances of The Ghosts of Versailles and Il Barbiere di Sivigliaspacer 

More information can be found at Ravinia, JamesConlon.com, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Opera News Archives (here, here and here).

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