WaterWorks - 2007 Resource Guide

Water Music - An Introduction By James Conlon

As Ravinia's music director I am thrilled to explore the world of 'water music' with you this summer. Water has inspired art and music through the ages, and this year One Score, One Chicago takes a close look at several aquatic masterpieces, with a particular focus on Alexander von Zemlinsky's symphonic poem The Mermaid.

From the majesty of the oceans, to the richness of its lore to its role as life-giver, water lends itself to musical depiction. This summer at Ravinia you will be able to hear famous water scenes by Debussy, Dukas and Saint-Saens. On August 12 I will conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Zemlinsky's The Mermaid, a work that retells Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale. Zemlinksy was one of the many composers whose career and life was negatively impacted by the events in Nazi Germany during the 1930's. This work, premiered approximately 100 years ago, uses the sea as a metaphor for passionate love, and the transformation of yearning and disappointment into sublime creativity.

I look forward to seeing you in the park to hear these beautiful pieces and much more all throughout the summer.

James Conlon, Music Director
Ravinia Festival


Now in his third year as music director for Ravinia Festival, where he first conducted in 1977, James Conlon has distinguished himself internationally in a highly diverse repertoire of symphonic, operatic and choral works. In Sepember 2006 he assumed duties as music director of the Los Angeles Opera, and he continues to serve as music director of the Cincinnati May Festival, where this year he marks his 28th anniversary in that position. Conlon has spent the major part of the last two decades in Europe, where he served as principal conductor of the Paris National Opera (1995-2004); general music director of the City of Cologne, Germany (1989-2002); and music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic (1983-1991).

Since his New York Philharmonic debut in 1974, Conlon has appeared as guest conductor with virtually every major North American and European orchestra. Conlon has worked regularly with the Metropolitan Opera for nearly three decades, conducting more than 250 performances there. He has also appeared with the world's major opera companies, including Milan's Teatro alla Scala, the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence. Since 1977 he has been active with the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, where he conducts the final round of competition in addition to leading master classes and coaching finalists. His work in the past three competitions was taped and telecast in a special series on PBS.

In an effort to raise public consciousness to the significance of composers whose music was suppressed by the Third Reich, Conlon programs their music with as many American and European orchestras as possible, including Ravinia's Breaking the Silence series and the Los Angeles Opera's Recovered Voicesproject. A graduate and former faculty member of The Juilliard School, Conlon has also taught at the Tanglewood Music Center and the Aspen Music Festival and School. He has recorded extensively for the EMI, Sony Classical, Erato, Capriccio and Telarc labels and has won awards for his recordings of the works of Zemlinsky. Among his honors is the 1999 Zemlinsky Prize for his efforts to bring the composer's music to international attention; and he was named an Officier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 1996, being promoted in September 2004 to Commander, the most prestigious honor awarded by the Ministry of Culture in France.

In September 2002 he received the Légion d'Honneur from French President Jacques Chirac. This summer he will lead two master classes for Ravinia's Steans Institute for Young Artists.


Listen as James Conlon discusses some of the Water Music that can be heard at Ravinia this summer. Use the audio controllers below to listen.





Note: if you have a slower Internet connection and the audio is playing faster than it is loading and causing skips or stops, begin loading the file by pushing the Play button, then use the Pause button to stop the playback while the loading continues. When the file has sufficiently loaded, hit the Play button again to listen. Do not attempt to play multiple files at the same time. All files are streamed using Adobe Flash. If you don't see the music controls, click here to download the Flash Player.

Return to top of page


Entire site contents Copyright ©2007 Ravinia Festival, a not-for-profit organization.