Equally at home in the opera house as she is on the concert stage, 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.
The 2016-17 season clearly demonstrates Ms. Kamensek’s remarkable versatility and expansive artistry. Making debuts with several major orchestras and opera houses throughout Europe, her repertoire includes works by Glass, Stravinsky, Ligeti, Haydn, Beethoven, and Dvořák as well as a new production of Bizet’s Carmen and a special project that involves the live presentation of film.
Her debuts this season include guest conducing appearances with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Pays Loire, Göteborg Symphony Orchestra, Aalborg Symfoniorkester, Malmö Opera och Musikteater, Philharmonisches Orchester Hagen, Saarländisches Staatsorchester Saarbrücken, and Orchestre National de Lille. With the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, she leads a Spanish-themed program of works by Copland, deFalla, and Marquez and collaborates with the iconic Flamenco singer Carmen Linares and Flamenco dancer Vanesa Aibar. With the Göteborg Opera she conducts a new company production, based on David McVicar's spectacular 2002 Glyndebourne creation, of Bizet’s Carmen with singers Katarina Giotas, Joachim Bäckström, Daniel Hällström, and Julia Sporsén. In Spain she makes her guest conducting debut with the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra with two programs that include Puccini’s riveting Messa di Gloria. From Spain she continues on to France to make her debut with the Orchestre National de Pays Loire for four New Year’s concerts, which have become her signature, that highlight the works of Dvořák, Offenbach, and Lumbye as well as Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, with cellist Tanja Tetzlaff.
In February she makes her debut with the Göteborg Symphony Orchestra leading the ensemble in a special presentation of the 1921 Swedish film Körkarlen. This evocative silent film is considered to be one of the central works in the history of Swedish cinema and will be brought to life through a new score written by composer Mats Larsson Gothe and is in collaboration with the Göteborg Film Festival.
Also in February she will debut with the Malmö Opera och Musikteater in Malmö, Sweden, with two performances that feature Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 in C major (‘Linz’); Strauss’ Duet Concertino; and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E minor. Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante—with cellist Andreas Brantelid as soloist—and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra punctuate her debut with the Aalborg Symfoniorkester to round the month.
In March she collaborates with the Clair Obscur saxophone quartet in a program that features Stravinsky’s Jeu de cartes; Glass’s Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra; and Haydn’s Symphony No. 103 in E-flat major, for her debut with the Philharmonisches Orchester Hagen, Germany.
In April she makes guest conducting debuts with the Saarländisches Staatsorchester in Germany and the Orchestre National de Lille in France. She will lead the Saarländisches Staatsorchester in two programs that feature Ravel’s Rhapsodie espagnole; Franck’s Symphony in D minor; and Saint-Saëns’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 3 in B minor, with Fanny Clamagirand as soloist. Returning to France she leads four concerts in three different venues that include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major; Chabrier’s Polonaise and Danse Slave from Le Roi malgré lui; and Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major with clarinetist Raphaël Sévère.
In 2016-17 Ms. Kamensek makes return guest conducting appearances to the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) and with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. While at AIMS she will lead the AIMS Festival Orchestra in three performances, including two concerts which feature the repertoire of Dvořák, Ligeti, and Stravinsky and The Meistersinger Competition as her third. Later in the season she will conduct two concerts with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. In November the first program features singer/songwriter Emel Mathlouthi as part of the Oslo World Music Festival. Hillborg’s lontana in sonno, with the multi-faceted mezzo-soprano Tora Augestad as soloist; Glass’ The Light; and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazad highlight her second concert with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra in March.
The 2015-16 season was punctuated by several artistic milestones. She ended her highly-successful tenure as the Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Staatsoper Hannover, a position she held since 2011. During her tenure, she led the ensemble in several new productions, including Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth von Mtsensk, Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Puccini’s Il trittico. Most recently she conducted the Staatsoper Hannover in critically acclaimed productions of Bernstein's Candide, Glanert's Caligula, Janáček's Jenůfa, and Weber's Der Freischütz. She also led the Niedersächsisches Staatsorchester Hannover in 12 concerts throughout the season which featured the music of Mahler, Strauss, Dvořák, and Martinů, with such guest artists as Nemanja Radulovic and an electrifying season-ending artistic collaboration with the “Jimi Hendrix” and master of the Galician bagpipes and a cult figure on the world music scene, Carlos Núñez.
Other highlights of the 201516 season included her critically-acclaimed debut with the English National Opera conducting Philip Glass’s Akhnaten; collaborations with soprano Pumeza Matshikiza, tenor Yijie Shi, pianist Christian Ihle Hadland, cellist Jens Peter Maintz; as well as debuts with the Tivoli Symfoniorkester, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland Pfalz, and the Real Filharmonía de Galicia.
On the concert stage, Ms. Kamensek has appeared as a guest conductor with many notable orchestras worldwide, including the Bruckner Orchester Linz, Dortmund Philharmoniker, Duisburger Philharmoniker, Kärntner Sinfonieorchester in Klagenfurt, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in Kuala Lumpur, Monterey Symphony, Odense Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Orchestre National de Montpellier, Orchestra of the MDR Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille, ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, Phillharmoniker Hamburger, Philharmonisches Orchester Freiburg, Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Braunschweig, Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Halle, San Antonio Symphony, Sinfonieorchester Basel, Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra Ljubljana, and the Symphony Silicon Valley.
Frequently in demand as a guest conductor with many of today’s most prominent opera companies she has led productions at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Frankfurt Opera, New York City Opera (touring company), Opera Australia (Melbourne), Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen, San Diego Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Volksoper Wien, among many others. Major highlights include her recent September 2014 debut with the San Francisco Opera conducting a new production of Floyd’s Susannah with soprano Patricia Racette; Britten’s Death in Venice; Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande; Lehár’s The Merry Widow; Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci; Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana; Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov; Puccini’s Tosca; Verdi’s Otello; and Wagner’s Lohengrin, among others.
Ms. Kamensek has collaborated with singers, directors, and instrumentalists from across the globe. She has worked with many renowned singers, including René Barbera, Johan Botha, Joseph Calleja, Michèle Crider, Andrzej Dobber, Norma Fantini, Franz Grundheber, Elza van den Heever, Brandon Jovanovich, Torsten Kerl, Tatiana Lisnic, Lise Lindstrom, Ambrogio Maestri, Emily Magee, Thomas Johannes Mayer, George Petean, Deborah Polaski, Patricia Racette, Stuart Skelton and Klaus Florian Vogt. She has partnered with such groundbreaking directors as Guy Joosten, Harry Kupfer, Uwe Eric Laufenberg, and Olivier Tambosi. She has led performances featuring critically acclaimed instrumentalists such as Michael Barenboim, David Aaron Carpenter, Gautier Capuçon, Renaud Capuçon, Karen Gomyo, Ilya Gringolts, Lynn Harrell, Louis Lortie, Olli Mustonen, Jon Nakamatsu, Christian Poltéra, and Benjamin Schmid.
A champion of contemporary music, Ms. Kamensek has frequently collaborated with American composer Philip Glass. In addition to her debut during the 2015-16 season with the English National Opera conducting Glass’ Akhnaten, she previously led performances of his Orphée in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and at the Jeunesses Musicales Festival in Weikersheim, Germany, where she also made her European debut. Additionally, she conducted the world premiere of Glass’ Les Enfants Terribles at the Spoleto Festival (USA).
In addition to her position as Music Director of the Staatsoper Hannover from 2011 to 2016, she has also served as the 1st Kapellmeister at the Volksoper Wien (2000 to 2002), Music Director of the Theater Freiburg (2003 to 2006), Interim Music Director at the Slovenian National Theatre in Maribor (2007 to 2008), and Associate Music Director at Staatsoper Hamburg (2008 to 2011).
Outside of the concert halls and opera houses, Ms. Kamensek can be heard on the recording of Glass’ Les Enfants Terribles, which was released on the Orange Mountain Music label in 2005. She has been featured in several books, including Hier Spielt die Musik!: Tonangebende Frauen in der Klassikszene by Brigitte Beier and Karina Schmidt, which was published in 2014. Holding a strong belief in contributing to the growth of the next generation of musicians, Ms. Kamensek has led such youth orchestras as the Hochschulorchester of the Bruckner University Linz, Hochschulorchester Köln, the Innviertler Symphonie Orchester, and Orchesterzentrum NRW Dortmund. This summer she will be leading a program at the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria.
Born in Chicago to parents of direct Slovenian descent, Karen Kamensek holds degrees in piano performance and orchestral conducting from Indiana University. Currently she resides in Hamburg, Germany, with her husband, Pierre Moissonnier, chef and owner of the acclaimed French restaurant, La Mirabelle.
Karen Kamensek’s bio for the 2016/17 season must be used in its entirety unless granted permission by the artist to do otherwise.