Skip to main content

Blog Post: February 1, 2022

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Names New Principal Conductor, Extends Artistic Leadership Appointments

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) announced exciting updates and additions to its distinguished artistic team: contracts for both Artistic Director James Robinson and Artistic Director of Young Artist Programs Patricia Racette have been extended to 2026, and fast-rising conductor Daniela Candillari has been named OTSL’s Principal Conductor in a new three-year appointment. 

“Opera Theatre is fortunate to have such a brilliant and innovative artistic team,” said General Director Andrew Jorgensen. “We are elated to extend the contracts of James Robinson and Patricia Racette. They are pushing this art form forward in dynamic ways, and their visionary work enables us to continue taking bold and transformative steps in opera. We are equally thrilled about Daniela Candillari’s appointment, and are looking forward to her musical leadership in the coming years. Cementing these three contracts is an essential step in OTSL’s continued growth and journey towards even greater artistic heights.”  

In the role of Principal Conductor, Daniela Candillari will collaborate with OTSL’s leadership to shape the artistic direction of the company, providing oversight to ensure the highest quality of musical preparation for each production and partnering with the musicians of the Grammy Award-winning St. Louis Symphony Orchestra to sustain an environment that supports creative development. She will conduct one festival season production each year, as well as the annual Center Stage concert featuring Opera Theatre’s Gerdine Young Artists and Richard Gaddes Festival Artists. 

Candillari, who made her OTSL debut in 2021 with the New Works, Bold Voices Lab, is quickly becoming one of opera’s most in-demand conductors. Born in Serbia, Candillari grew up in Serbia and Slovenia, and her career has taken her to many of the country’s leading orchestras and opera companies, including the New York Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera, and Opera Philadelphia. After the conclusion of the 2021 Outdoor Festival Season, she led the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) in a concert of operatic hits, celebrating the historic and important 44-year partnership between OTSL and the SLSO. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut this past December with Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice, and will conduct Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in March. She was recently appointed Principal Opera Conductor of the Music Academy of the West. Daniela Candillari’s engagement is made possible with generous support from Kim and Tim Eberlein.   

“I am extremely excited to be joining Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as Principal Conductor,” said Candillari. “During my debut in St. Louis last season, I felt welcomed by OTSL, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and the audience; I also felt an incredible connection to the city and community of St. Louis. Since coming to the US as a student, I have always admired OTSL’s commitment to young artists, new repertoire, and their high level of artistic achievement. I look forward to building a strong relationship with OTSL in the coming years, and working with the entire team who make OTSL a leading American opera company.” 

Renewing his contract as Artistic Director, James Robinson is renowned for his championing of world premieres and newer works, and has had great success on many opera stages. In 2019, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut with a sold-out, Grammy Award-winning production of Porgy and Bess. Robinson’s production was so successful that the Met added additional performances, resulting in one of its most successful productions to date. In 2021, he received worldwide critical acclaim for remounting OTSL’s 2019 commission Fire Shut Up in My Bones at the Metropolitan Opera (the company’s first production of a work by a Black composer). Appointed Artistic Director in 2008, Robinson plays an instrumental role in curating each season at OTSL, and is a resource for rising composers and librettists across the nation. He has directed significant revivals including John Adams’ Nixon in China and no fewer than 10 world premieres including Terence Blanchard’s Champion, Jack Perla’s Shalimar the Clown, and Ricky Ian Gordon’s “27.”  

“It has been my great pleasure to serve OTSL as Artistic Director for the past fourteen years,” said Robinson. “When I first joined OTSL, I already considered St. Louis my favorite artistic port of call. Today, I consider it my artistic home. Over the years, such initiatives as our New Works, Bold Voices series have flourished and taken us in directions we never thought possible. The impact of OTSL in our community and the greater opera world has been profound. I am thrilled to continue working with Andrew Jorgensen, Patricia Racette, and now Daniela Candellari, in addition to the entire staff and board of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.” 

Patricia Racette, winner of the coveted Richard Tucker Award in 1998, has been widely celebrated for her performances of leading roles on the world’s major opera stages. Making an indelible mark as a teacher and mentor in recent years, Racette has taught master classes at the Juilliard School, San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the Santa Fe Opera, among many others, and made her successful directorial debut at OTSL in 2019 in Verdi’s La traviata. Since her appointment as OTSL’s Artistic Director of Young Artist Programs in 2019, Racette has been instrumental in the growth of OTSL’s widely acclaimed Gerdine Young Artist Program. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she successfully transitioned the program online, arranging master classes with leading vocal artists and workshops with a wide variety of opera luminaries from companies around the country. Each year, she co-curates OTSL’s annual young artist showcase concert, titled Center Stage, with Artistic Director James Robinson. 

“I am thrilled to continue my relationship with OTSL,” said Racette. “Along with the renewal of my contract, my passion for this art form and the responsibility I feel in cultivating the next generation of artists is reinvigorated. I envision their training at OTSL to be practical, tactical, and inspiring; young artists will leave the festival season experience with not only a sense of what it means to be an artist, but also empowered to find and express their own unique voice. Through this important work, I know OTSL will carry on as a launching pad for young artists destined for major careers in this industry. 

All three will be instrumental in bringing the 2022 Festival Season to life; James Robinson will direct the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s Awakenings, about the famous neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks’s efforts to cure a pandemic, and will also co-direct the new performing edition of Stewart Wallace’s Harvey Milk with director and choreographer Seán Curran. In addition to working with the Gerdine Young Artists, Patricia Racette will co-curate the Center Stage concert with Robinson, and Daniela Candillari will conduct the opening opera of the 2022 Festival Season, Bizet’s Carmen