In this episode of Big If True, we travel to ancient Egypt—or a fictional version of ancient Egypt, which is the setting for Aida, an opera by Giuseppe Verdi. Today we’re talking to Steven White about this grand opera, and what it takes to make such a production. This episode is for you even if you don’t know anything about opera, or you think you don’t like opera!
Guest bio: Steven White
Praised by Opera News as a conductor who “squeezes every drop of excitement and pathos from the score,” Steven White is one of North America’s premiere operatic and symphonic conductors. He made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 2010, conducting performances of La traviata starring Angela Gheorghiu. Since then he has conducted a number of Metropolitan Opera performances of La traviata, with such stars as Natalie Dessay, Hei-Kyung Hong, Plácido Domingo, Thomas Hampson, Dmitri Hvorostovksy and Matthew Polenzani. In the past several seasons he has returned to the Met to participate in critically fêted productions of Don Carlo, Billy Budd, The Rake’s Progress and Elektra.
With a vibrant repertoire of over sixty-five titles, Maestro White’s extensive operatic engagements have included performances with New York City Opera, L’Opera de Montréal, Vancouver Opera, Opera Colorado, Pittsburgh Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Baltimore Opera, New Orleans Opera, and many others. In recent seasons he has conducted Rigoletto with San Diego Opera, Otellowith Austin Opera, La traviata with Utah Opera, and a world premiere staged production of a brand-new Bärenreiter edition of Gounod’s Faust with Opera Omaha. In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the cancellation of his eleventh production at Arizona Opera, Ariadne auf Naxos,as well as the company premiere of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire at Opera Roanoke.Projects moving forward in the 2020-21 season COVID-impacted season include a reimagined Rigoletto with Tulsa Opera at Tulsa’s ONEOK Field, and Le nozze di Figaro in a return to Opera Omaha.
Music critics are effusive in their praise of conductor Steven White’s ability to elicit inspired music-making from orchestras. Of his 2016 performances with the Omaha Symphony, the Omaha World-Herald asserts that, “it would be hard to imagine a more complete performance of the Symphonie Fantastique. Highly nuanced, tightly controlled and crisp, Steven White asked everything from orchestra members and they were flawless. He led them out of serene beauty into disturbing dissonance and even to the terrifying point of musical madness without ever losing control. It was insanely good.” Opera News declares, “White is amazing: he consistently demands and gets the absolute best playing from the orchestra.”
Among the many orchestras Maestro White has conducted are the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Moscow Philharmonic, the Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal, the Mozarteum und Salzburg Kulturvereinigung Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony Orchestra, the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, the Colorado Symphony, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Charleston Symphony, the Florida Philharmonic, the Fort Worth Symphony and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra for a CHANDOS recording of arias featuring his wife, soprano Elizabeth Futral. In 2019 he made debuts with the San Diego Symphony, the Utah Symphony Orchestra and the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra.
Maestro White is a passionate and dedicated educator. He has served multiple artistic residencies and led productions at such institutions as the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Indiana University, the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Miami Frost School of Music Program in Salzburg, Kennesaw State University and Virginia Tech University. In the summer of 2019 he served as an artist in residence at the Shanghai Conservatory in China and in 2020 he led a critically acclaimed production of La clemenza di Tito for the North Carolina School of the Arts Fletcher Opera Institute. He is in constant demand as an adjudicator of the most prestigious music and vocal competitions, including numerous auditions for the Metropolitan Opera National Council and the Jensen Foundation.
Steven White proudly makes his home in Virginia, where he serves as Artistic Director of Opera Roanoke, a company with which he has been associated for two decades. Maestro White has conducted dozens of productions in Roanoke, including performances of Das Lied von der Erde, Der fliegende Holländer, Fidelio, Falstaff, Otello, Macbeth, Aida, Hänsel und Gretel and many others. In recognition of his contributions to the civic, cultural and artistic life of Southwest Virginia, Roanoke College conferred on Maestro White an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts in May 2013.
(From Fletcher Artists)