Equally at home in the opera house as she is on the concert stage, Chicago-born conductor Karen Kamensek's repertoire spans from iconic staples of the classical canon to compositions by the masters of today to evocative crossover works. She has conducted orchestras and opera productions around the globe, with many of today’s leading artists and ensembles.
Kamensek is a specialist in modern and contemporary repertoire and she is a regular collaborator of the American composer Philip Glass. In addition to collaborating with Anushka Shankar and the Britten Sinfonia to present the first ever live performance of the composer’s collaboration with Ravi Shankar, Passages at the 2017 BBC Proms, she also conducted the world premiere of Glass’ opera Les Enfants Terribles at the Spoleto Festival, and further performances of his opera Orphée (in New York and Germany), Satyagraha, and Akhnaten (both at the English National Opera).
The 2018/19 season will see Kamensek return to the Royal Swedish Opera to revive the world premiere production of Victoria Borisova-Ollas’ new opera Dracula, which she first conducted in the 2017/18 season. Kamensek’s further operatic appearances this season include Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking (Welsh National Opera), Bernstein’s Candide (Bergen National Opera), as well as a return to the English National Opera for a revival of her 2016 smash success with Glass’ Akhnaten. On the 2018/19 concert stage she will conduct the Tonkünslter Orchestra in collaboration with Stacey Kent, as well as the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, Stockholm Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Bordeaux, Royal Northern Sinfonia, the opera orchestras of both Malmö and Gothenburg, and, in a special presentation of the film Amadeus, the Oslo Philharmonic. A further highlight of Kamensek’s 2018/19 season is a reprise of her collaboration with Anushka Shankar on Passages, this time together with the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris at the Philharmonie de Paris.
Previous concert invitations have led Kamensek to such orchestras as the Dortmund Philharmonic, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille, Bruckner Orchestra Linz, Duisburg Philharmonic, Klagenfurt Symphony, Malaysian Philharmonic, Monterey Symphony, Odense Symphony, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Orchestre National de Montpellier, MDR Symphony Orchestra in Leipzig, the ORF Radio Symphony in Vienna, the Hamburg Philharmonic, Freiburg Philharmonic, Staatsorchester Halle, San Antonio Symphony, Basel Symphony, Slovenian Philharmonic and to Symphony Silicon Valley.
Also in-demand as an opera conductor, Kamensek has guest conducted at many important opera houses around the world including such auspices as the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Frankfurt Opera, Gothenburg Opera, Israeli Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Australia, Royal Danish Opera, San Diego Opera, San Francisco Opera, and the Vienna Volksoper. Particular highlights of her operatic career include such productions as Britten’s Death in Venice, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Floyd’s Susannah, Lehár’s The Merry Widow, Leoncavallos I Pagliacci, Masgni’s Cavalleria rusticana, Mussorgsky’s Boris Gudonov, Puccini’s Tosca, Verdi’s Otello, and Wagner’s Lohengrin.
Kamensek was First Kapellmeister at the Vienna Volksoper from 200 to 2022, and Generalmusikdirector at the Theater Freiburg from 2003 to 2006, after which she took on the position of interim Chief Conductor of the Slovenian National Theater in Maribor in the 2007/08 season. Beginning in 2008 Kamensek served as deputy-Generalmusikdirector at the Hamburg State Opera before becoming Generalmusikdirektor an Chief Conductor of the Hanover State Opera in 2011. She led the opera in Hanover until 2016, and during her tenure she conducted numerous new productions including Shostakovich’s Lady MacBeth of the Mtsensk District, Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Puccini’s Il trittico, Detlev Glanert’s Caligula, and Janacek’s Jenufa.