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Musical World

Donald Runnicles

  • Conductor


Donald Runnicles begins the 09/10 season conducting a new production for Vienna Theatre an der Wien of Benjamin Britten  Death in Venice.  Interspersed with it are his premiere performances at the Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) of Tannhäuser.  Throughout the season, he divides his time between his two new posts at the DOB and the BBC Scottish Symphony, returning for four weeks to the Atlanta Symphony. Symphonic guest engagements include a return to the Berlin Philharmonic where is a regular guest conductor, and the Munich Philharmonic.  The season concludes with a return to the San Francisco Opera for performances of Die Walküre, before taking up summer residence in Jackson Wyoming for the Grand Teton Music Festival.

Highlights of the season at the DOB include Der Rosenkavalier, a staple of Mr. Runnicles’ extensive repertoire, Manon Lescaut and a concert featuring Act II from Parsifal, and two complete Wagner Ring cycles.  He leads Brahms Eines Deutsches Requiem, with the Atlanta Symphony and the Berlin Philharmonic, both performances featuring the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

During the 08/09 season in San Francisco, Mr. Runnicles conducted Das Rheingold, Die Zauberflöte, The Rake’s Progress, and Tannhäuser.  He returned to the Metropolitan Opera for a new production of Peter Grimes and to the Vienna State Opera for Rosenkavalier and Der fliegende Holländer.  He led four weeks of concerts in Atlanta, and augmented the forces of the Berlin Philharmonic in the Berlioz Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

Donald Runnicles led the internationally-acclaimed world premiere of John Adams’s Dr. Atomic in San Francisco in 2005.  In the 07/08 season, he led the Deutsche Oper Berlin in two complete “Ring” cycles.

Maestro Runnicles was born in Scotland and educated there and at Cambridge.  He began his career in Mannheim, Germany, made his North American debut in 1988 conducting Berg’s Lulu at the Metropolitan Opera, and in 1989 became General Music Director of the City of Freiburg.  After two “Ring” cycles at San Francisco Opera in 1990, he was invited to become Music Director, and has since led more than 60 productions in the house.

Donald Runnicles' recordings with the Atlanta Symphony include a critically acclaimed concert disc with soprano Christine Brewer singing Strauss and Wagner; the Mozart Requiem, Orff Carmina Burana, and the Beethoven Ninth Symphony.  Also in his discography are a highly praised live recording of Wagner Tristan und Isolde released in 2007 by Warner Classics, with Christine Brewer and John Treleaven; Britten Billy Budd with Bo Skovhus, Neil Shicoff and the Vienna State Opera; a Grammy-nominated recital of German Romantic opera arias with tenor Ben Heppner; “Ring” excerpts with the Dresden Staatskapelle; Humperdinck Hänsel und Gretel; Bellini I Capuleti e i Montecchi; and a disc with soprano Jane Eaglen of works by Strauss, Wagner and Berg.

Mr. Runnicles has ongoing musical relationships with some of the finest orchestras and opera companies in the U.S. and Europe.  Among those in the U.S. are the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony and the New World Symphony.  He is a frequent guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, North German Radio Orchestra Hamburg (NDR) and Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Munich.  He appears annually in Great Britain at both the BBC London Proms and the Edinburgh Festival, and each year he works at the Vienna State Opera.  He has also led productions in the opera houses of Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Milan, Munich, Paris and Zurich. 

Among his awards are the OBE and an honorary degree from Edinburgh University.