Emmanuel Villaume / music director and chief conductor
French-born conductor Emmanuel Villaume has led captivating performances with the most prominent opera companies and symphony orchestras around the world. Since the 2015–2016 season he has been Chief Conductor of the PKF – Prague Philharmonia.
Emmanuel Villaume is currently in his fifth season as Music Director of The Dallas Opera, and in 2017–2018 he will conduct three performances for the company: Samson and Delilah (C. Saint-Saëns), Der Ring des Polykrates (E. W. Korngold) and Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He will also be returning to the Metropolitan Opera in New York (Massenet: Thaïs), Lyric Opera of Chicago (Gounod: Faust) and Gran Teatre del Liceu with Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, critically acclaimed by The New York Times: ‘It is the most vivid, exciting take on “Manon” at the Met in many years, and sets the bar high, early on, for the company’s spring season. He also regularly collaborates with opera houses in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Montreal, Royal Opera Covent Garden in London, Washington National Opera, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan and Opéra Bastille in Paris. Emmanuel Villaume has also conducted at the Bavarian State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro La Fenice, Teatro Regio di Torino, Teatro Real in Madrid and Opéra de Monte-Carlo, among others. At the renowned Klangbogen Festival in Vienna, he was in charge of Menotti’s Goya with Plácido Domingo in the title role.
Apart from operas, he has been actively engaged with symphonic ensembles. Between the years 2009–2016 he was Chief Conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic. Among the orchestras he has conducted so far are: Los Angeles Philharmonic; Chicago, Montreal, San Francisco, Houston and Boston Symphony Orchestras; Royal Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France and NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. In 2008 the China National Opera House Orchestra played under Villaume’s baton during the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. Other top events have been the concerts at Avery Fisher Hall at the Richard Tucker Gala 2014, with the Juilliard Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, a performance at the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago, White Night Festival at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and the European tour with Tchaikovsky’s opera Jolanta featuring the soprano Anna Netrebko – stopping in Lucerne, Copenhagen, Monte Carlo and the Royal Albert Hall in London. We should not forget his numerous appearances at the prestigious American Spoleto Festival where he was from 2001 through 2010 Music Director.
His projects with the PKF – Prague Philharmonia include recording with Anna Netrebko for the Deutsche Grammophon label, a CD with Bryan Hymel for Warner Classics which was nominated for International Opera Awards 2016, and the special New Year’s Gala at the Royal Opera House Muscat in Oman. In January 2017 he and the PKF toured very successfully in the USA, giving concerts at Davis Symphony Hall in San Francisco and Copley Symphony Hall in San Diego.
Born in Strasbourg in 1964, Emmanuel Villaume studied music at the Conservatoire de Strasbourg. He continued his education at Khâgne and the Sorbonne in Paris, where he received degrees in literature, philosophy, and musicology. As author of noted articles of musicology, Mo. Villaume was appointed Dramaturg of the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg at the age of 21. He holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Indianapolis. Maestro Villaume makes his home in Paris and Dallas.
Jiří Bělohlávek / conductor / Founder & Music Director Laureate
Jiří Bělohlávek was born in Prague in 1946, and his love of music became apparent at an early age. Bělohlávek studied the cello with Professor Karel Pravoslav Sádlo, before continuing his studies at the Prague Conservatory and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. It was during these years that Jiří Bělohlávek began conducting in earnest, receiving instruction from Robert Brock, Alois Klíma, Bohumír Liška and Josef Veselka.
In 1968, the legendary Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache invited Jiří Bělohlávek to become his assistant. Bělohlávek won the Czech Young Conductors’ Competition in 1970, and reached the final of the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition in 1971. It was in 1973 that Bělohlávek began conducting the Czech Philharmonic to great acclaim; the start of his long relationship with the orchestra.
Jiří Bělohlávek was appointed Conductor of the Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra in 1972, a position he held until 1978. He then became Chief Conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, a partnership which lasted until 1989, and Permanent Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. Václav Neumann, the latter orchestra’s Chief Conductor (between 1968 and 1990) brought him to Berlin’s Komische Oper in 1979, where he debuted with Smetana’s The Secret. Bělohlávek went on to conduct Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress there in 1980.
Jiří Bělohlávek was appointed Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic in 1990. He built upon the orchestra’s already excellent reputation, particularly in its interpretations of Czech music, and became part of a long line of esteemed Czech conductors to direct the orchestra: Václav Talich, Rafael Kubelík, Karel Ančerl and Václav Neumann. In 1994, Jiří Bělohlávek founded the Prague Philharmonia, whom he directed until 2005, when he became its Conductor Laureate.
Jiří Bělohlávek collaborated with a number of leading world orchestras including Berliner Philharmoniker, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Wiener Philharmoniker.
Among the opera houses in which Jiří Bělohlávek conducted were: Royal Opera House Covent Garden (Eugene Onegin), Metropolitan Opera (Rusalka, Eugene Onegin), San Francisco Opera (The Makropulos Case), Opéra National de Paris (The Bartered Bride), Teatro Real Madrid (Káťa Kabanová), Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Tristan and Isolde, Rusalka, Jenůfa), Grand Theatre du Geneve (From the House of the Dead) and the National Theatre in Prague (his last engagement was conducting Bohuslav Martinů the Miracles of Mary).
In 1994, Jiří Bělohlávek was named Principal Guest Conductor of the Prague National Theatre; then in 1995 he became the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Guest Conductor, later becoming its Chief Conductor in 2006. He remained in this position until 2012, when he accepted the post of Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. In the spring 2012 Jiří Bělohlávek became Principal Guest Conductor with the Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest, starting from the 2013–2014 season.
Apart from his work with orchestras, Jiří Bělohlávek was also involved in educational work: in 1997 he was appointed Professor at the Academy of Music in Prague, and from 2009 he held the post of Head of Conducting. Among his students were three highly talented conductors: Tomáš Hanus, Jakub Hrůša and Tomáš Netopil.
As President of the International Prague Spring Festival, Jiří Bělohlávek pursued a long term goal to spread the awareness of music by Czech composers among international audiences. His warm affection for the music of Bohuslav Martinů in particular contributed significantly to the growth of world renown of this great composer, which happened mainly after 1989. Bělohlávek is considered by critics to be the best interpreter ever of Martinů’s music. And he also introduced audiences to the hitherto less known works by Dvořák, Janáček, Smetana and Suk.
In May 2012, Bělohlávek was awarded the title Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) 'for services to music' by the Queen Elizabeth II. In 2001 he received the Czech Medal of Merit Grade I.
On 1 June 2017 this brilliant artist passed away after a long illness. He conducted his last concert with the PKF – Prague Philharmonia in Polička, Bohuslav Martinů’s native town. His beloved Martinů sounded for the last time under his baton conducting an orchestra that he had founded and that will forever carry on his legacy for future generations.