A Celebration for Women Everywhere
But only once--at the performance of an opera in New Haven--have I been privileged to see a woman conduct. This was the great producer, director and conductor of operas Sara Caldwell, founder of the Opera Company of Boston and the first woman to conduct a performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City (Verdi's La Traviata with Beverly Sills singing the lead).
Marin Alsop, 48, was born in New York, graduated from Yale and earned her Masters at Juilliard. She studied conducting at Tanglewood under Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa, won the Koussevitzky and Stokowski Prizes for conducting in 1989 and has been principal conductor of the Bournemoth Symphony Orchestra in England since 2002. In addition, she has guest conducted a slew of major orchestras including the Philadelphia, National (DC), Minnesota, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Los Angeles as well as a number of top European orchestras.
In addition, Alsop has an extensive discography ranging from Brahms to Bernstein and Samuel Barber and garnered splendid reviews. A short sample from the Seattle Times:
There is much to admire in her reading of Brahms' First. She is unafraid of slow tempos -- that gorgeous chorale in the final movement, for instance -- and she is not fearful of refusing to exhibit muscle at every turn of the road. There is a sense of organic growth, carefully judged dynamics and a handsome roundness to some of Brahms' familiar tunes. Alsop brings fresh ideas to overworked terrain.
New York Times music critic Anthony Thommasini called her appointment to Baltimore a "barrier-breaking milestone." He wrote:
Though the breakthrough is overdue, I supported the decision for other reasons. Instead of turning to an elderly European eminence, as major American orchestras so often have, the Baltimore Symphony was putting its faith in a 48-year-old American dynamo, a formidable musician and a powerful communicator, a conductor with a vision of what an American orchestra could be in the 21st century. Ms. Alsop has also proved to be a programmer with a knack for mixing old and new, a champion of contemporary music and living composers, and someone who can talk from first-hand experience about the new-music scenes and the standout composers in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and London.