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, California with its principal venues in Thousand Oaks and Camarillo, California. In his first full season in 2019-2020, Christie celebrated the orchestra’s 25th anniversary with a year of symphonic masterworks and world class soloists and introduced two new audience engagement opportunities: Intermission Insights, ten-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.”
In response to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, Christie is leading the New West Symphony’s reimagined 2020-2021 season of digital concerts, including eight mini-festivals held from October through June. Each festival will highlight the music, cultures, and family traditions within Ventura County and surrounding communities, while emphasizing connections with the orchestral repertoire.
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).
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, six seasons as its first-ever Music Director (2012-2018) – from staples of the repertory such as La Traviata, Nabucco, Macbeth, La Boheme, Fanciulla del West, Arabella, and Das Rheingold to performances of 20th and 21st century operas via Minnesota Opera’s New Works Initiative, including Bernard Herrmann’s only opera 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.
Photo by James Daniel
Photo by Tim Trumble
Deeply committed to bringing new works to life, Michael Christie has championed commissions by leading and emerging composers alike, including 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, a two-act opera by Huang Ruo, with Opera Theatre of St. Louis “with impressive precision,” as praised by Dallas Morning News. The New York Times reported, “Both the subtle colorings and pummeling intensity came through in the compelling performance the conductor Michael Christie drew from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.”
Other recent highlights include Christie’s San Francisco Opera debut in the world premiere performances of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the world premiere of Twenty-Seven, a new opera by Ricky Ian Gordon commissioned by Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Notable past performances include highly praised productions of Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles and John Adams’s 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 various performances at Opernhaus Zürich, Finnish National Opera, Scottish Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago. In addition to premiering Kevin Puts’ Silent Night with Minnesota Opera, he also led performances by Opera Company of Philadelphia, Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland, and Opéra de Montréal.
Christie’s conducting career, spanning more than 20 years, has included serving as Music Director of the Phoenix Symphony (2005-2013) and Brooklyn Philharmonic (2005-2010), and as Chief Conductor of the Queensland Orchestra (2001-2004) in Australia, 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.
Christie’s many European engagements have included leading the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Orchestre National de Lille, Swedish and Netherlands Radio Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, NDR Hannover Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic. In addition, Christie enjoys a strong profile in Australia, where he has conducted the Sydney Symphony, Tasmanian Symphony, Opera Queensland, and the Western Australian Symphony in Perth.
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. Christie also served as the Music Director of the Colorado Music Festival from 2000-2013, where he was highly praised for his innovative programming and where audiences are now at an all-time high, resulting in him being named “Musician of the Year” by The Denver Post in 2010.
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 1996-1997 season. Christie 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.