Strong ideas, lucid communication and intensely focused energy are among the qualities that define Stephanie Childress among today’s most compelling young musicians. The Franco-British conductor is set to spend the autumn with Mozart, making her debut at Staatsoper Hamburg with a revival of David Bösch’s staging of Die Entführung aus dem Serail (5, 8, 11 & 21 October 2023) before returning to Glyndebourne for the second outing of Mariame Clément’s subversive new production of Don Giovanni (12, 19, 24, 26 & 29 November & 2 December). Together they mark the latest milestone in the development of a fine Mozartian, hailed by the Guardian for the ‘lithe vitality’ of her interpretation of Le nozze di Figaro at Glyndebourne last year. It also signals that the 24-year-old is likely to become a significant figure in the world of opera for decades to come.
“I’m ready for these wonderful opera projects in Hamburg and at Glyndebourne and for more to come,” comments Stephanie Childress. “I had such an enjoyable time with Glyndebourne on tour last year and am delighted they asked me back for Don Giovanni. I’ve lived in this beautiful rose-tinted world of Mozart over the past eighteen months, which is something I would recommend to anyone! I look forward to coming back to Glyndebourne, making my debut in Hamburg and working with fascinating casts in both places. Performing in Germany, which is such an important centre for music, will be an amazing adventure and I am thrilled to be taking what for me will be a leap into the unknown. That’s something I love!”
Childress’s passion for opera, kindled during childhood visits to the theatre, took hold during her early teens thanks to the overwhelming impact of three productions at English National Opera: Britten’s Billy Budd and Death in Venice and Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. These, rather than her success as a string finalist in the 2016 and 2018 editions of BBC Young Musician, proved crucial in setting the course of her studies and choice of profession. It influenced her decision to leave secondary school when she was fifteen and take up a place soon after St John’s College, Cambridge. In addition to working with singers during her undergraduate years, she gained invaluable experience as an assistant conductor at Glyndebourne and English National Opera and conducting productions staged by British Youth Opera, Cambridge University Opera Society and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
“Those three operas at ENO were instrumental in propelling me onto this path,” she recalls. “I never envisaged becoming a violinist. Playing violin was always a very serious hobby for me, along with other serious hobbies such as swimming and figure skating. I had no interest in becoming a musician and fought it for a long time. It was only at the age of thirteen, when I saw those ENO productions, that I realised how much I wanted to be involved in music and, above all, that I wanted to be a conductor. Opera is so dear to me because it started me off on this incredible journey of dropping out of school, going to Cambridge the following year to study music and taking my first steps as a conductor. It was the catalyst for what I’m doing now and is behind my determination to develop my repertoire by doing as much opera as I possibly can while balancing that with symphonic work.”
Stephanie Childress, who recently concluded a three-year term as assistant conductor to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, also continues to make her mark as a symphonic conductor. Her 2023-24 season includes debut performances with, among others, Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic, the Royal Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, as well as returns to the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona and the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra. She will also conduct Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves for Detroit Opera (6, 12 & 14 April) and close her season in July by making her debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
“I want to keep this balance of operatic and symphonic work,” notes Stephanie Childress. “And I look forward to conducting Rosenkavalier and the two Britten operas that inspired me to begin this crazy journey. I hope to share my love of Britten with the whole world and am always trying to persuade the French to perform more of his music! I’d love to perform Wagner, who has been one of my musical pillars growing up, and the German romantic repertoire, and am also passionate about good contemporary opera. But I think Mozart has already taught me more about conducting opera than I expect any other composer will. I’m so excited to see where this great adventure leads me and can’t wait to start rehearsing Die Entführung in Hamburg.”
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