News and Features

Dallas Opera Hires French Conductor Emmanuel Villaume as Music Director

For only its third music director in its 56-year-history, the Dallas Opera has appointed the well-regarded and well-traveled Emmanuel Villaume, who was the director of the Spoleto Festival USA from 2001 to 2010. He replaces Graeme Jenkins, who stepped down after 20 seasons with the last performance of The Aspern Papers April 28.

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Much of Villaume’s career, before and after Spoleto, has been spent racking up international credits as a guest conductor. He  has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro la fenice in Venice, Los Angeles Opera and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He has also recorded with Placido Domingo and Anna Netrebko and is the artistic director of the National Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra as well as Chief Conductor of the National Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra in Bratislava.

At a morning press conference in the Dallas Opera’s boardroom at the Winspear, Villaume said he was looking forward to having a creative home, after years spent going from “suitcase to suitcase.” The Dallas Opera’s contract specifies that Villaume will conduct at least two operas per season, although Villaume will conduct only one next season, opening the season with Carmen in October. His online biography says he makes his home in Paris and New York, but he said he was hoping to have a residence in Dallas — because his duties as music director entail engaging the community.

Villaume has conducted twice before with the Dallas Opera — in 2002 and 1998. But he cited the new Winspear Opera House as a major factor in his decision to come to North Texas. Every great company needs a great house, he said, and we have one. He added that the other elements are the “masses” — meaning chorus and orchestra — the community and the “spirit or general gesture” of the company. “And here, you have it all.”

Born and raised in Strasbourg, which is right on the border between France and Germany, Villaume said that one of the privileges of being music director is that, at last, he gets to reserve for himself some of the big, choice operas — somewhat surprisingly, in his case, that means works from the German canon, which, other than Mozart or Strauss, the Dallas Opera has not done much. With permission from general director Keith Cerny, the new conductor hinted that for its 2014-’15 season, the Dallas Opera will present a Mozart opera (one with a Beaumarchais libretto, he joked — knowing that didn’t narrow things down much) as well as a rarely performed Russian opera.

Emmanuel Villaume conducting the prelude to Act IV of Bizet’s Carmen in 2007 with the Orchestre National de Belgique  at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris, France:

 

The press release:

 

 

THE DALLAS OPERA PROUDLY ANNOUNCES

Our New Music Director

EMMANUEL VILLAUME

 

Selected by General Director and CEO Keith Cerny

To become only the third person to serve in that role

In the 56-year history of the Dallas Opera

Maestro Villaume to conduct the upcoming season-opener

CARMEN, October 25 through November 10, 2013

 

DALLAS, APRIL 30, 2013 – The Dallas Opera is thrilled to announce the appointment of a distinguished new music director—only the third person ever to be named to that position in the 56-year history of the company.

The official announcement was made by Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny at a morning media event, as he introduced critically acclaimed French-born conductor Emmanuel Villaume.

“Over the past year, I have actively sought input from a wide variety of sources, both inside and outside Dallas,” explained Mr. Cerny. “I was delighted to see the intense level of interest in this position from candidates of the highest caliber, many of whom have extraordinarily busy careers conducting at the world’s leading opera houses.”

“Having carefully weighed all input, spoken with a number of these candidates, and traveled extensively to watch contenders for the position in both rehearsal and performance, I made the decision to appoint French-born conductor Emmanuel Villaume as Music Director of The Dallas Opera.”

Maestro Emmanuel Villaume has appeared in the world’s most important and prestigious opera houses. These include engagements with the Metropolitan Opera (Madama Butterfly, Samson et Dalila, and Carmen); Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Les contes d’Hoffmann and La rondine); Lyric Opera of Chicago (Samson et Dalila, Manon, and The Merry Widow); Washington’s National Opera (Werther, La rondine, Norma, Le Cid, Les contes d’Hoffmann and Lucia di Lammermoor); San Francisco Opera (Madama Butterfly and Werther); Los Angeles Opera (La rondine and La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein); Santa Fe Opera (Les pêcheurs du perles and Carmen); Opéra de Paris (Rigoletto); Teatro la fenice in Venice (Thaïs and Il crociato); Deutsche Oper Berlin (Tosca); Madrid’s Teatro Real (Les contes d’Hoffmann and Werther); and Debussey’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“I am honored to be selected as Music Director of the Dallas Opera and to be a part of such a talented artistic community,” said Emmanuel Villaume. “The Winspear Opera House is one of the most beautiful performing arts venues in the world, and I am excited to be working with the superb orchestra and dedicated staff of the Dallas Opera. I look forward to helping create even more brilliant performances with this impassioned opera company.”

After opening Dallas Opera’s 2013-2014 Season (“By Love Transformed”), Maestro Villaume returns to Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for performances of Massenet’s Manon and to Venice’s La fenice for performances of L’africaine. Maestro Villaume maintains a busy schedule of symphonic performances including concerts with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and the Slovenian Philharmonic.

Recent and upcoming highlights of Maestro Villaume’s 2012-2013 operatic season include performances of La bohème with Lyric Opera of Chicago; appearances on the podium of Munich’s Bavarian State Opera in Les contes d’Hoffmann; and a return to Santa Fe Opera in La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, starring mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, who recently starred in the Dallas Opera’s 25th Anniversary production of Dominick Argento’s The Aspern Papers.

In 2012, Maestro Villaume toured throughout Europe in concert performances of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, starring soprano Anna Netrebko, with performances in Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam, Paris, and several other European capitals of music. He also led Washington National Opera in performances of Werther as well as last summer’s well-received Santa Fe Opera production of Georges Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles (“The Pearl Fishers”).

Maestro Villaume remains in demand for symphonic engagements around the world, and he has appeared with the Danish National Orchestra, St. Petersburg Symphony, Spoleto Festival USA, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Stockholm), and the Ruhrtriennale Festival in Northwest Germany.

His schedule includes additional prestigious future engagements not yet announced to the public.

General Director and CEO Keith Cerny told journalists gathered for today’s announcement: “The Music Director’s role encompasses three vital elements. One, of course, is to conduct mainstage performances for the company, at least two productions per year. The second is to work closely with me and members of the company’s artistic staff, on artistic planning, auditions, and other major musical decisions. The third is to spend time in the North Texas community – meeting donors and community leaders, and helping the Dallas Opera to achieve the highest possible levels of artistry and impact.”

“Maestro Villaume will work in a multi-faceted capacity during the production season, but our new Music Director will also spend time outside the regular season spreading the word about TDO throughout the Metroplex.

“I also believe that Emmanuel Villaume will prove an excellent ambassador for the company while attending to his many national and international conducting engagements,” Cerny added, “and will help the Dallas Opera to continue to attract the best singers, directors and designers at work in our field today.”

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Maestro Villaume has attracted the favorable notice of critics throughout his career.

John von Rhein of The Chicago Tribune wrote, “A master of Gallic style in the pit, Emmanuel Villaume has the fine Lyric Orchestra speaking fluent Offenbach, within flowing lines, vivacious tempos and airy textures that sparkle with flair and sensuality.”

Meche Kroop of The Opera Insider praised Villaume’s ability to “bring it all together with a display of precision and drama that led the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra to its customary peak of performance.”

Heidi Waleson of The Wall Street Journal, reviewing Santa Fe Opera’s The Pearl Fishers, noted: “Emmanuel Villaume led an idiomatic performance, bringing out the delicacy and sensuality of this lovely, underappreciated score.”

Pavel Unger of Kultura Pravda wrote, “The opening concert of the Bratislava Festival was successful beyond expectation…the Slovak Philharmonic and its principal conductor, Emmanuel Villaume, have set the bar very high.”

Critic Ivan Marton added, “Villaume’s conducting is passionate, precise and clear—and he is a talented interpreter of (Beethoven) as well. He knew exactly what he wanted and was successful in achieving it.”

Lawrence A. Johnson of Chicago Classical Review stated that Villaume “conducted the Lyric Opera Orchestra with immense vigor and panache,” while a critic for Diapason Magazine in France praised the conductor’s “elegiac gentleness (and) warmth.”

Opera News critic Simon Williams saluted the conductor for conjuring “rich, idiomatic playing from the orchestra (that) did not hesitate to highlight the borrowings, mainly from Gounod and Wagner, that show how Bizet explored contemporaneous opera music to find his own voice.”

Samuel Wigutow of Chicago Critic in his recent review of Lyric Opera’s Bohème wrote, “Credit must also go to conductor Emmanuel Villaume, who drew exceptionally polished, vibrant, and nuanced playing from the orchestra to match the stage action. He showed himself again to be among Lyric’s finest conducting talent, with a gift for keeping the orchestra on its toes as well as true musical inspiration.”

Maestro Villaume will officially be known as the Mrs. Eugene McDermott Music Director in Honor of Graeme Jenkins.