January 27, 2023

Conductor James Conlon has made it his mission to restore music by composers who perished, or whose lives were affected, by the Nazi regime. His desire to uncover this music and bring it to the masses came as a matter of happenstance. In the early 2000s, Conlon – living in Germany at the time – was driving home from rehearsal, listening to the classical radio station when he heard a fascinating piece of music that captured his attention: Die Seejungfrau by Alexander Zemlinksky, a composer he later learned had escaped the Nazis by emigrating to New York via Prague, yet remained neglected and unknown throughout his life in the U.S.

Since that fateful day, Conlon has uncovered troves of music by composers suppressed by the Third Reich, and has programmed these forgotten, neglected or one-time blacklisted works in many of his conducting engagements with orchestras around the world. “I perform this music regularly, in the hope that it will find its place in the standard repertoire. By keeping alive their music and that of other victims of totalitarianism, we deny those past regimes a posthumous victory. The revival of this music can serve as a reminder for us to resist any contemporary or future impulse to define artistic standards on the basis of racist, political, sectarian, or exclusionary ideologies.”

James Conlon’s TEDx Talk, “Resurrecting Forbidden Music,” which introduces viewers to the rich cultural heritage suppressed by the Nazi regime—a heritage that is ripe for re-discovery.


In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Shapeshifter — an all-Schulhoff album that has Conlon conducting the composer’s Concerto for Piano and Small Orchestra, Op. 43 with the Recovered Voices at Colburn Ensemble (RVC) and pianist Dominic Cheli — has been featured on New York’s WQXR (Read the story here.)

Shapeshifter, released on Delos, is the first album-length examination of Schulhoff by contemporary American artists — a testament to Conlon’s extensive efforts through The Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices at the Colburn School. Aiming to shed new light on composers silenced during the Holocaust, Conlon’s collaborative enterprise with Colburn encourages greater awareness and performances of these underrepresented composers. Conlon’s renewed focus on Schulhoff also encompasses a series of lectures and concerts presented by Colburn, and featured on The Violin Channel.

“[The works] provide the perfect overview of Schulhoff’s mature music. The Piano Concerto is the hardest to find, but this performance outranks its competitors in any case. The recital comes from a project called Recovered Voices, at the Colburn School of the Arts in Los Angeles, set up by the American conductor James Conlon. The work of these musicians is impeccable, particularly pianist Dominic Cheli, violinist Adam Millstein, and of course James Conlon himself. Bravo!” — ★★★★★  Limelight Editor’s Choice, February 2023

“However much Shapeshifter warrants commendation for its extra-musical aspects, it holds up solidly on purely musical grounds. Any listener unfamiliar with the project’s historical background would still come away from the release well-satisfied by its musical offerings. Were the composer alive to hear it, he no doubt would be thrilled by what Conlon, Cheli, and the RVC Ensemble have created.” — Textura, January 2023


Earlier this month, James Conlon led the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in a program that included Shostakovich’s Festive Overture and Symphony No. 5, for which The Dallas Morning News raved, “Conlon led a performance gripping start to finish, as attentive to the music’s hushed insinuations as to its sonic explosions, all with dramatic inevitability.” 

The DSO was “at its finest under guest conductor James Conlon,” wrote the Texas Classical Review. “His interpretation of [Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5] was undeniably sensitive and intentional, to which the ensemble responded in kind.” 

James Conlon, Baltimore Symphony Artistic Advisor, also continued his career-long focus on Verdi leading the composer’s Requiem with the BSO, featuring guest artists soprano Michelle Bradley, mezzo-soprano Yulia Matochkina, tenor Russell Thomas, bass Morris Robinson, and the Washington Chorus directed by Eugene Rogers.

Conlon says, “Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem Mass has been called his greatest opera, although it is no opera at all. It is virtually the only major work he wrote that was not intended for the theater. But that it defies categorization is emblematic of its universal character, which has led it to be one of classical music’s most admired and beloved works, by both musicians and the public alike.”

The concert is available to stream here via BSO Offstage through February 4. Use the promo code OS2023 at the top of the order page for complimentary access.


James Conlon introduces Verdi’s Ernani

Despite conducting more than an astounding 500 Verdi performances to date, Conlon continues to expand his Verdi repertoire, recently leading the composer’s Ernani for the first time in a new production directed by Leo Muscato as part of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino’s Festival D’autunno Del Maggio (November 10-20, 2022). Conlon comes full circle in Florence, having made his debut there conducting Don Carlo at the Festival’s inauguration in 1985. Since then, he has conducted numerous festival productions including Verdi’s Macbeth in 1995, which he led again for the Verdi Bicentennial in 2013 at the Teatro della Pergola, where Verdi himself conducted the world premiere. 

“The audience followed the work with bated breath, letting themselves be overwhelmed by Maestro Conlon’s wand.” — Opera e Opera, November 11, 2022

“James Conlon manages to obtain a real Verdi tint from the orchestra, creating a valuable musical atmosphere.” — Connessi all’Opera, November 13, 2022

“On the musical level there is to be noted the appreciation for the conducting of James Conlon, with his Verdi always so well breathed and nobly romantic.” — Giornale della Musica, November 14, 2022

“James Conlon faces his first Ernani with a reading entirely marked by action, with the clarity of an execution rarely so centered by the so-called expert conductors in the Italian repertoire.” — Musica, November 18, 2022

From Florence, Conlon traveled to Bologne and Torino to lead two great symphonies by a composer he has long championed — Shostakovich’s Nos. 4 and 10 — as well as works by Debussy and Mozart, with the orchestra of the Teatro Communale Bologne and Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI.

“Conlon masterfully interpreted this magnificent music introduced by cellos and violas, followed by the winds and continued by violins and all the orchestra.” — Codalario.com, December 3, 2022

“Conlon’s conducting appears very attuned to the delicate nuances and intricate timbres of the score and the orchestra manages to act not only as a unifying force but, consistent with the intention originally from Debussy.” — Artistsandbands.org, December 4, 2022

“Conlon, which the Turin public has had the opportunity to appreciate in past seasons, has acquired over time, alongside the perfect scansion and the usual brilliance of sound… a constant depth of vision and penetration into the secrets of even the most difficult scores, without having anything to envy of the most celebrated masters of recent decades.” — Apemusicale.it, December 10, 2022


Richard Seaver Music Director James Conlon returns to his Los Angeles home to conduct three operatic masterpieces at LA Opera:

Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro  February 4-26
Conlon leads Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in a new co-production with the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées directed by filmmaker James Gray, with scenery by Santo Loquasto and costumes by fashion designer Christian Lacroix. The cast is led by bass-baritone Craig Colclough as Figaro and soprano Janai Brugger as Susanna, with baritone Lucas Meachem and soprano Ana María Martínez as Count and Countess Almaviva, and mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb as Cherubino. 

Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande  March 25-April 16
After an absence of more than 20 years, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande returns to LA Opera, conducted by Conlon in a production by Sir David McVicar. In the title roles, soprano Sydney Mancasola sings opposite baritone Will Liverman. The cast also includes bass Kyle Ketelsen as Golaud, bass-baritone Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Arkel, and Susan Graham in her role debut as Geneviève. Conlon has conducted the opera throughout his career, including in new productions at the Cologne Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Paris Opera. He has also conducted the composer’s orchestral music extensively, and his recordings of orchestral selections are included among Warner Classics’ collection of Debussy’s complete works.

Verdi’s Otello — May 13-June 4
Continuing his life-long engagement with and passion for the music of Verdi, Conlon conducts LA Opera’s first staging of Otello since 2008. LA Opera’s Artist-in-Residence Russell Thomas sings the title role, and soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen makes her company debut as Desdemona. The cast also include baritone Igor Golovatenko as Iago, bass Morris Robinson and Lodovico, tenor Anthony Ciaramitaro as Cassio.