James Conlon
(c) Dan Steinberg/LA Opera

American conductor James Conlon, 73, the second music director in Los Angeles Opera’s almost 40-year history, will step down from his role after the 2025-26 season. Conlon will have led L.A. Opera for 20 years by the time of his exit, and will be named conductor laureate in recognition of his many contributions to the company.

He was previously Principal Conductor of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra in Torino, Italy (2016–20); Principal Conductor of the Paris Opera (1995–2004); General Music Director of the City of Cologne, Germany (1989–2003), simultaneously leading the Gürzenich Orchestra and the Cologne Opera; and Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra (1983–91). Conlon was Music Director of the Ravinia Festival (2005–15), summer home of the Chicago Symphony, and is now Music Director Laureate of the Cincinnati May Festival―the oldest Choral Festival in the United States―where he was Music Director for 37 years (1979–2016), marking one of the longest tenures of any director of an American classical music institution.

“The long, productive relationship that I have shared with LA Opera and the greater Los Angeles community has been a source of enormous professional fulfillment, and I have decided to make the 2025/2026 season my last as music director,” Conlon said. “Twenty years with the company marks an extraordinary personal milestone. I am moving on to a new phase of my professional activities and am grateful to the board and to Christopher for their understanding. »

Conlon continued: “I have been a music director with orchestras, opera companies and festivals in Europe and the United States for almost 50 years and am looking forward to launching new projects of great importance to me, both musically and personally.

« As a product of the public education system of New York City, at a time when music was a significant presence for young people, I am passionate about using my voice and influence to encourage and develop a new and growing audience for classical music across generations. I will continue to dedicate myself to those goals through future conducting, writing, public speaking and, most importantly, education and mentorship.

“One of the greatest satisfactions has been working with the musicians of the LA Opera Orchestra. I am deeply grateful to them for their dedication, hard work and support. I am confident that they will be in very good hands with the next generation of leadership.

« I simultaneously express my deepest gratitude to all of those with whom I have collaborated onstage and backstage: the entire chorus, music staff and orchestral library; the audio department, stage management and stage hands; the costume and wig department; all of the administrative staff, volunteers and, in short, all of those whom the public rarely sees but without whom none us would be able to perform at our best. Last and not at all least, my deepest appreciation to Christopher Koelsch, Board Chairman Keith R. Leonard, Jr., Honorary Chairman Marc Stern, Chairman of the Executive Committee Carol F. Henry and the entire board of directors, without whose support and caring Los Angeles would not have the opera company it needs and deserves. »

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