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Musical World

Patrick Summers

  • Conductor


At the Metropolitan Opera, where Patrick Summers is a frequent guest, he leads two  productions: Gluck Iphigénie en Tauride with Susan Graham and Placido Domingo, and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor featuring Natalie Dessay and Joseph Calleja.  He also leads the MET’s National Council Competition finals concert, which has done on several occasions before.  Both opera productions will be transmitted into theaters and cinemas around the world in HD format. Finally, Mr. Summers will return to Opera Australia in Summer 2011 where he has been a valued guest for 15 years,  to lead a pair of productions:  Strauss’ Capriccio, and a new Of Mice and Men, Carlisle Floyd’s contemporary opera based on the John Steinbeck masterwork. 

A seasoned symphonic conductor, Mr. Summers recently led an eight-city U.S. tour of the Russian National Orchestra and pianist Yuja Wang, which also included a special gala performance with soprano Renée Fleming for the Boca Raton Festival.  Maestro Summers also made his Norwegian Opera Orchestra debut in a gala concert for the company’s 50th anniversary season, featuring soprano Christine Brewer dedicated to and honoring the company’s founder Kirsten Flagstad.  This season, Mr. Summers will make his debut with the Slovenian National Orchestra in Ljubjana conducting Michael Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony. 

Now in his second decade as HGO Music Director, Mr. Summers has overseen many of the company’s important artistic advances, including the formation of its own orchestra, the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra.  During his tenure, he has supervised and conducted seven world premieres (including André Previn’s second opera, Brief Encounter), as well as premiering many seminal opera works not previously mounted by HGO in addition to a score of new productions.  Of equal importance has been the formation of HGOco, the company’s unique initiative to connecting the company and community through collaboration. HGOco is a center for exploration and creativity and a catalyst for a revolution in cultural service.

Mr. Summers’ longest association, however, is with the San Francisco Opera, where he has been an essential member of the company’s family and history for more than two decades.  As musical director of the Opera Center—the SFO’s training program for young singers—from 1989-1994, he also worked extensively with the Center’s touring company, the Western Opera Theater, leading five tours of Asia and the Pacific and helping to develop the Pacific Voices program.  Mr. Summers began conducting SFO main stage productions in the early 1990s and became the SFO’s Principal Guest Conductor in 1999.  The list of works he has conducted there is staggering in its diversity and includes Ariodante, Iphigénie en Tauride, Così fan tutte,  both comic and seria operas of Rossini (Guillaume Tell, La Cenerentola, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Otello, the US premiere of Ermione), Norma, L’Elisir d’amore, La fille du régiment, Die Fledermaus, Tosca, Rigoletto, La Traviata, Il Trittico, Samson et Dalila, Louise, Faust, A Streetcar Named Desire, Dead Man Walking, and Aribert Reimann’s A Ghost Sonata.   After San Francisco, Mr. Summers longest relationship is with Opera Australia.  After his 1994 debut with La Cenerentola, Mr. Summers has returned regularly, conducting such titles as  Lucrezia Borgia, Werther, Iphigénie en Tauride (Melbourne), La Bohème, Rinaldo, Madama Butterfly, The Abduction from the Seraglio and The Pearl Fishers.    

With New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Summers association began in 1998 with Die Fledermaus.  He has returned repeatedly, conducting repertoire ranging from Handel’s Rodelinda to Strauss’ Salome and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. He was one of three conductors, along with MET Music Director James Levine and Marco Armiliato, to participate in the MET’s 125th Anniversary Gala, and has also led the MET’s National Council Competition finals concert on several occasions.  To date, he has appeared in four of the MET’s innovative and immensely successful HD transmissions of Saturday matinee performances shown in cinemas around the world.   

Mr. Summers’ European appearances are no less extensive.  Since his first European engagement at the Rome Opera (Manon Lescaut), he gone on to appear with Barcelona’s famed Teatro Liceu conducting Rossini’s La Cenerentola with Juan Diego Florez and Joyce DiDonato, (released on DVD), and has also conducted productions for the Welsh National Opera (Rigoletto), Bregenz Festival (Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men), Lisbon Opera (Ariadne auf Naxos), Opéra de Bordeaux (Don Pasquale and La Bohème,) and the European premiere of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire for the  Opéra National du Rhin (Strasbourg).

Sought by performing and creative musical artists for his musical sensitivity and collaborative gift to help them develop innate talent into seasoned artistry, his work with living composers has resulted in the world premieres of nearly a dozen new works since he first assisted Sir André Previn on the creation of A Streetcar Named Desire.   He has since worked closely with composers Tod Machover (Resurrection), Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking, End of the Affair, Last Acts, Moby Dick), Rachel Portman (The Little Prince), Michael Daugherty, Carlisle Floyd (Cold Sassy Tree), André Previn (Brief Encounter), Mark Adamo, Daniel Catán (Salsipuedos), Murray Schaefer, Lee Hoiby (The Tempest) Christopher Theofanidis (The Refuge), Paul Moravec (The Letter), and the list continues.  Amongst singers, he is equally well known as tutor, mentor and friend; and leading singers frequently seek him out to conduct their premiere productions in signature roles. Such artists as Patricia Racette created her first Cio-Cio San and Tosca at HGO; Anna Netrebko her first Puritani for the MET; and Renée Fleming’s first Violetta, also at HGO. 

Mr. Summers’ growing discography includes the 2002 Grammy Award-winning recording Bel Canto, with soprano Renée Fleming and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.  He also recorded many of Houston Grand Opera’s world premieres: Mark Adamo’s Little Women (Ondine, 2001), Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas (Albany, 2002), Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers (Albany, 2008), and The Refuge (Albany, 2007). Other HGO productions currently available commercially on DVD include Of Mice and Men, Carlisle Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree, Tod Machover’s Resurrection (Albany).  The premiere of Jake Heggie‘s Dead Man Walking recorded with the San Francisco Opera was released commercially on CD by Erato, and the DVD of I Puritani at the Metropolitan Opera has been released on DVD by EMI.  Forthcoming releases include a DVD of Adamo’s Little Women on the Naxos label (November 2010) and the CD release of Previn’s Brief Encounter on Deutsche Grammophon (2011).