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James Holmes Trustee

2015 -

James Holmes is a British musical director, editor and arranger. A former staff conductor at English National Opera and Head of Music at Opera North, his long-time interest in classic American musical theater has seen him play a significant role in its emergence as a staple in the repertoire of those houses. While at ENO, he conducted the first production by a British opera company of a work by Stephen Sondheim; Pacific Overtures was subsequently recorded, earning a US ‘Grammy’ nomination. It was there too, that his dedication to the work of Kurt Weill first found a significant outlet; having worked on Seven Deadly Sins and Mahagonny Songspiel as pianist/coach, he went on to conduct Street Scene and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. At Opera North, under his direction Weill’s work became – and remains – an important feature of the company’s repertoire; productions in Leeds have included One Touch of Venus, Seven Deadly Sins, the UK stage premiere of Der Kuhhandel (Arms and the Cow) and in 2019, a widely-acclaimed new production of Street Scene; other company successes include Sweeney Todd, Carousel (which he previously conducted for the Royal National Theatre in 1991) Into the Woods, and Kiss Me, Kate. Elsewhere, he conducted the British stage premiere of Weill’s Zaubernacht (Magical Night) for the Royal Opera House, Der Silbersee for English Touring Opera and the first ever performances of Street Scene in Berlin; the latter production was also released on DVD. Other Weill recordings include One Touch of Venus and a BBC TV documentary I’m A Stranger Here Myself; Kurt Weill in America

He has made multiple appearances at the Kurt Weill Festival in Dessau, conducting One Touch of Venus (2010), the Violin Concerto and his own arrangements of songs from Huckleberry Finn and Der Kuhhandel; he also musically prepared and supervised the first European production of the critical edition of Love Life in Freiburg. Other significant work in Europe includes The King and I (Chatelet, Paris) and Bernstein’s Wonderful Town for the Vienna Volksoper, which won Musical Theater Production of the Year Award. In the US, he has conducted Weill in concert at Symphony Space, New York and with Symphony Silicon Valley in San Jose.

He has often served on the jury for the annual Lotte Lenya Competition. As member of the Advisory Board for the Kurt Weill Edition, he has contributed to a number of volumes and is the Volume Editor for Weill’s orchestral music; his new critical edition of the Symphonie in einem Satz (Symphony Nr. 1) was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic under Kiril Petrenko in February 2021 and with his new edition of the Fantaisie Symphonique (Symphonie Nr. 2) is scheduled to be recorded by H.K. Gruber in May 2021

James Holmes has conducted as wide a range of Kurt Weill’s work as anyone in the world. In recognition of his service to the composer, the Kurt Weill Foundation graciously honored him with their seventh Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.


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