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Opera North's new residency scheme for women conductors

A new residency scheme for women conductors has been launched by Opera North, in recognition that talented female conductors are less likely to find a way into opera than their male counterparts.

The residency, aimed at female conductors who have shown extraordinary potential and who are at the start of promising careers in opera, is spread across a full opera season, and will include observing opera rehearsals, being mentored by Opera North’s Music staff and guest conductors, and engaging with our Education and outreach programmes. Enabled by the Harewood Young Artists Fund, the scheme will launch in the 2019-2020 season, which includes productions of classics such as La bohème and The Marriage of Figaro, alongside lesser known works including Martinů’s The Greek Passion.

The first participant is French conductor, Sonia Ben-Santamaria. Sonia was a young trainee repetiteur at the English National Opera and the National Opera Studio, London after graduating from the Royal Academy of Music and the Conservatoire National de Toulouse, France, and was the first female conductor associated as a link artist to the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artist Programme. She makes her UK opera conducting debut at Opera Holland Park this June, with two performances of Un ballo in maschera.

Sonia Ben-Santamaria © Roger Way

The residency is seen as a first stage of engagement, with Opera North continuing to build an on-going relationship with the successful participant after the initial ten weeks. The programme will be responsively designed each year to develop the skills of each participant, and will include conducting opportunities in rehearsals, acting as part of Opera North’s Music staff, coaching singers, and working closely with guest conductors on a range of operas within the season.

Richard Mantle, General Director, Opera North, said: 

“Conducting is a key area within the classical music industry which historically has been dominated by men. We hope that this residency opportunity can help to address the gender imbalance in conducting by encouraging more female musicians to see opera as a viable career path, and to ensure that Opera North and the wider opera industry is drawing on the widest range of professional conducting talent now and in the future. We look forward greatly to welcoming Sonia Ben-Santamaria into the Company as our first Associate Assistant Conductor.

“We have been delighted in recent months to work with some of the most talented women conductors currently working in the industry, including Jessica Cottis and Sian Edwards, who returns to Opera North this Autumn to conduct Bluebeard’s Castle in concert. Following Dalia Stasevska’s UK debut as part of the Orchestra of Opera North’s concert season in 2018 and her return earlier this year, we are also delighted to bring another young conductor to the UK for the first time, as Ruth Reinhardt opens our 2019-20 concert season, with a programme of Webern, Schubert and Beethoven.”


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