GRAMMY® award-winning conductor Michael Christie is an innovative conductor, equally at home in the symphonic and opera worlds, who is focused on making the audience experience at his performances entertaining, enlightening and enriching. The New York Times reports, “Michael Christie is a director open to adventure and challenge,” and the Cincinnati Enquirer declares, “If Michael Christie represents the future of music in this country, the future looks promising indeed.”
Michael Christie is the Artistic and Music Director of the New West Symphony, serving the greater Los Angeles area primarily from the San Fernando Valley west to Ojai, CA. For the New West Symphony’s 2022-23 season, Christie leads performances of Mason Bates’ Philharmonia Fantastique: The Making of the Orchestra with animated/live action film, Reena Esmail’s Meri Sakhi Ki Avaaz (My Sister’s Voice), Dave and Chris Brubeck’s Ansel Adams: America with photos by Ansel Adams, an all-Mozart concert, Beethoven’s Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, and more. Guest artists include double bassist Xavier Foley, cellist Ifetayo Ali-Landing, pianist Sean Chen, traditional Mexican music ensemble Hermanos Herrera, Hindustani soprano Saili Oak, Mariachi Reyes and the Ukranian dance ensemble Chervona Kalyna. New audience engagement initiatives include audio program notes produced by Christie and Facebook Live editions of Meet the Artists events. In the summer of 2023, New West presents its inaugural Summerfest on the grounds of Moorpark College in Moorpark, CA.
In response to COVID-19 restrictions, Christie led the New West Symphony’s 2020-21 season of digital concerts as part of eight mini-festivals, each highlighting the music, cultures and family traditions within Ventura County and surrounding communities, while emphasizing connections with orchestral repertoire.
Photo by Bradford Rogne
In his first season as Music Director in 2019-20, Christie introduced two audience engagement initiatives: Intermission Insights, 10-minute onstage interviews with the musicians; and Entr’Acte, a newer work performed during intermission. Of his opening concert as Music Director and immediate embrace of a more diverse and inclusive season, the Los Angeles Times reported that the orchestra is “embracing the mission of refreshing the modern concert experience for a new generation,” and praised their performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, as “far and away the most spectacular playing from what should no longer be considered a regional symphony.”
Christie won a 2019 GRAMMY award (Best Opera Recording) for the world premiere recording of Mason Bates’ The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs with The Santa Fe Opera (PENTATONE). In 2017, he led the world premiere performances at The Santa Fe Opera, “with suave assurance” (San Francisco Chronicle), with “precision and pizzazz” (Santa Fe New Mexican) and “preside[d] over an expertly executed performance” (The Financial Times). In 2022, he conducted a new production of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Atlanta Opera, directed by Tomer Zvulun. In February 2023, he leads Zvulun’s The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs production at the Calgary Opera and conducts a fully-staged production of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci at the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera (CA). In September and October 2023, Christie conducts The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, directed by Kevin Newbury, at San Francisco Opera.
Michael Christie was featured in Opera News in August 2012 as one of 25 people believed to “break out and become major forces in the field in the coming decade.” At Minnesota Opera, Christie led 24 productions over eight years, with six seasons as its first-ever Music Director (2012-18) – from staples of the repertory such as La traviata, Nabucco, Macbeth, La bohème, Fanciulla del West, Arabella, and Das Rheingold to performances of contemporary operas via the company’s New Works Initiative, including Bernard Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights, the world premiere of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012, the world premiere of Kevin Puts’ The Manchurian Candidate, and the world premiere of Paul Moravec’s The Shining.
Deeply committed to bringing new works to life, Michael Christie has championed commissions by Mark Adamo, Mason Bates, Michael Daugherty, Osvaldo Golijov, Mark Grey, Daron Hagen, Huang Ruo, Matthew Hindson, Marjan Mozetich, Stephen Paulus, Kevin Puts, and more. In 2018, he led the world premiere of An American Soldier by Huang Ruo at Opera Theatre of St. Louis “with impressive precision,” as praised by Dallas Morning News.
Other highlights include Christie’s San Francisco Opera debut in the world premiere performances of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene and Twenty-Seven by Ricky Ian Gordon at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Notable past performances include highly praised productions of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles and John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer, and the North American premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland, all with Opera Theatre of St. Louis; the European premieres of The Ghosts of Versailles at the Wexford Festival Opera; as well as performances at Opernhaus Zürich, Finnish National Opera, Scottish Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Lyric Opera of Chicago. He also led performances of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night at Opera Philadelphia, Wexford Festival Opera and Opéra de Montréal.
Photo by Tim Trumble
Christie’s conducting career, spanning more than 20 years, has included serving as Music Director of the Phoenix Symphony (2005-13), Brooklyn Philharmonic (2005-10) and Colorado Music Festival (2000-13), plus Chief Conductor of the Queensland Orchestra (2001-04), as well as guest appearances leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Rhode Island Philharmonic, and the Symphonies of Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta, Houston, Minnesota, Oregon, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Santa Rosa. He is Music Director Emeritus of the Colorado Music Festival.
Christie’s New York Philharmonic debut came in 2007 when he stepped in on short notice for an ailing Riccardo Muti, and his Carnegie Hall debut came in 2014 when he led the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Spring for Music Festival.
Michael Christie first came to international attention in 1995 when he was awarded a special prize for “Outstanding Potential” at the First International Sibelius Conductors’ Competition in Helsinki. Following the competition, he was invited to become an apprentice conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra where he subsequently worked with Daniel Barenboim as well as at the Berlin State Opera during the 1996-97 season. He graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music with a bachelor's degree in trumpet performance. Christie lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Alexis, a physician, and their two children.