May Festival announces first woman conductor

Eun sun kim
Eun Sun Kim will be the first woman to lead the May Festival in its 145-year history. Photo provided/Cincinnati May Festival

Korea-born conductor Eun Sun Kim will make her Cincinnati May Festival debut on May 18, replacing James Levine, who was previously announced to open the season. The Cincinnati May Festival made the announcement on Thursday.

She will be the first woman to lead the festival in its 145-year history. The program is unchanged. Kim will lead the May Festival Chorus and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem at Music Hall.

It will be the first May Festival to be held in Music Hall since the historic building reopened this season following a $143 million renovation. Music Hall was built for the choral festival in 1878.

“The Verdi Requiem is an iconic work, and we look forward to a powerful performance,” said the Festival’s principal conductor Juanjo Mena, who is in town to conduct the Cincinnati Symphony in subscription concerts this weekend.

Kim made her United States debut in October, leading performances of Verdi’s La Traviata at the Houston Grand Opera. The company, forced out of its home due to Hurricane Harvey, had to perform in a makeshift auditorium. Despite difficult circumstances, a major star was born, wrote the New York Times. She will make her debut with the San Francisco Opera during the 2018-19 season.

Kim studied composition and conducting in Seoul and continued her training in Stuttgart
where she graduated with distinction. Immediately after graduation, she was awarded First Prize at the International Jesús López Cobos Opera Conducting Competition.

The May 18 opening night concert also features soprano Michelle Bradley, mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk, and tenor Matthew Polenzani.

Levine’s appearance was canceled following allegations of sexual misconduct.

More information is available on the May Festival website.



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