In his eleventh season as Music Director of New York City Opera, the wide-ranging and versatile GEORGE MANAHAN has had an esteemed career embracing everything from opera to the concert stage, the traditional to the contemporary. He has been hailed for his leadership at City Opera, where he “gets from his players the kind of heartfelt involvement unthinkable in the City Opera orchestra pit 20 years ago...these musicians operate with such consistent energy and involvement.” (The New York Times)
George Manahan has distinguished himself throughout the world as one of the foremost conductors of our time, and is especially known in the opera world for his musical guidance of diverse productions including productions of La Fanciulla del West, Daphne, Ermione, Dialogues of the Carmelites, Cendrillon, and Die tote Stadt. He has also toured Japan with NYCO’s production of Little Women.
Manahan’s guest appearances include the symphonies of Atlanta, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Charlotte, and New Jersey, where he served as acting Music Director for four seasons, as well as the National Symphony and the Juilliard and Manhattan Schools of Music, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Music Academy of the West, and the Aspen Music Festival. He is a regular guest with the opera companies of Santa Fe, Portland, and Glimmerglass Opera, and has also appeared with the opera companies of Seattle, Chicago, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Opéra National de Paris, Teatro de Communale de Bologna, the Bergen Festival (Norway), the Casals Festival (Puerto Rico), and Minnesota Opera, where he was principal conductor. As music director of the Richmond Symphony (VA) from 1987-1998, where in addition to conducting, he also appeared as piano soloist, he was honored four times by the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) for his commitment to 20th-century music.
That passion for the music of our time was ignited when, in one season, Manahan was chosen as the Exxon Arts Endowment Conductor of the New Jersey Symphony and he made his mark on the opera world debuting with the Santa Fe Opera conducting the American premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's opera Von Heute auf Morgen. That enthusiasm continues today; he has conducted numerous world premieres, including Wuorinen’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Tobias Picker’s Emmeline, and many others.
His many appearances on television include productions of La bohème, Lizzie Borden, and Tosca on PBS. Live from Lincoln Center’s telecast of New York City Opera’s production of Madame Butterfly under his direction won a 2007 Emmy Award. Manahan’s discography includes the Grammy-nominated recording of Edward Thomas’ Desire Under The Elms, with the London Symphony, and Steve Reich’s Tehillim on the ECM label, as well as two albums of 20th-century concertos for clarinet featuring Richard Stoltzman. He also appears on the Elan, New Albion, and Naxos labels.
His recent Carnegie Hall performance of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra was hailed by audiences and critics alike, “What a difference it makes to hear the piece performed by a opera conductor who palpably believes in it,” said The New York Times. “The fervent and sensitive performance that Mr. Manahan presided over made the best case for this opera that I have encountered.” His current season includes the world premiere of Ask Your Mama at Carnegie Hall, and this performance of it at the Hollywood Bowl, and elsewhere across the country. He appears in a concert performance of Gluck’s Alceste featuring Deborah Voigt and the Collegiate Chorale, with the Westchester Philharmonic, and conducts Thomas’ Mignon at the Music Academy of the West and La bohème at the Aspen Music Festival.
He received his formal musical training at the Manhattan School of Music, studying conducting with Anton Coppola and George Schick, and was appointed to the faculty of the school upon his graduation, at which time the Juilliard School awarded him a fellowship as Assistant Conductor with the American Opera Center.