Anthony Freud, Lyric Opera of Chicago's general director, announced today that Ian Robertson, chorus director of San Francisco Opera since 1987, will serve as guest chorus master at Lyric Opera starting December 11. Lyric Opera's search for a permanent chorus master is ongoing.
"Lyric Opera is deeply grateful to David Gockley, general director of San Francisco Opera, for accommodating our request to release Ian for several weeks on such short notice," Freud said.
Robertson will serve as guest chorus master for Lyric Opera productions of Puccini's La bohème, Wagner's Die Meistersinger, and Verdi's Rigoletto. He will remain at Lyric through the late-February dress rehearsal of Rigoletto, returning to San Francisco Opera February 25 for his duties as chorus director. (The SFO season runs September through early December, then resumes in June 2013.)
Recipient of the San Francisco Opera's 2012 Opera Medal, Ian Robertson has been chorus director and conductor with San Francisco Opera since 1987, having prepared more than 275 productions for the company. He was awarded the Olivier Messiaen Foundation Prize in 2003 for his artistic contribution to the preparation of the Company's North American premiere of Saint François d'Assise. Robertson made his San Francisco Opera conducting debut with Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and has since led performances of Falstaff, Lohengrin, Rigoletto, La traviata, Don Carlo, Turandot, Il Trovatore, and La bohème. He has led the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in many concerts, including the company's recent Stern Grove appearance. In addition, he has conducted Così fan tutte and La Périchole for San Francisco Opera Center and frequently led Merola Opera Program's Grand Finale concerts. Other North American opera credits include productions with Sarasota Opera, Edmonton Opera, and Philadelphia's Curtis Opera Theatre. Before joining San Francisco Opera, Robertson was head of music and chorus director of Scottish Opera, where he led numerous productions, including IL Barbiere di Siviglia, The Pearl Fishers, The Secret of Susanna, and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The Scotland native trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and the University of Glasgow; he studied conducting under Sir Alexander Gibson. Robertson is currently the artistic director of the San Francisco Festival Chorale and the San Francisco Boys Chorus; the latter ensemble performed for the 2009 inauguration of the President of the United States.
Since the resignation of Martin Wright in November, Lyric music staff members have overseen the activities of the Lyric Opera Chorus. Philip Morehead, head of music staff and former chorus master at Lyric (1986-91), is temporary chorus master for Die Meistersinger, with Lyric's former chorus master Donald Palumbo (1991-07; now chorus master of the Metropolitan Opera) coming in for a day of Meistersinger rehearsals in early December.
Music staff member Valerie Maze helped to prepare the Lyric Opera Chorus for this season's productions of Werther, Don Pasquale, and Hansel and Gretel and will continue to work with the ensemble for remaining performances of the latter two. (While Werther doesn't use chorus, the children in the cast are joined by a few of the women from the Lyric Opera Chorus for offstage singing. Hansel and Gretel uses a small children's chorus drawn from Anima Young Singers of Greater Chicago.) Maze conducted last season's Jeff Award-winning production of Follies at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and was Jeff-nominated for her musical direction of A Little Night Music at Writers' Theatre.