In the Moment: Adam Turner Conducts ‘La Boheme’ at the Virginia Opera‏

The major joy in writing this column comes from getting to know the up and coming creative artists in the DC area, especially since a whole new generation is sweeping into the area. One does not need a weather vane to know the times are changin.’ And for those of us interested in more than the mere survival of opera deep into the 21st Century, change is good and necessary.

Virginia Opera's 'La Boheme.
Jason Slayden (Rodolfo) and Elaine Alvarez (Mimi) in Virginia Opera’s ‘La Boheme.’ Photos by Lucid Frame Production/Courtesy of Virginia Opera

This article is about one of the new set of artists: Adam Turner who is now the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Virginia Opera. He is most definitely a performing artist to watch. Turner has become a regular presence in the area when Virginia Opera performs at George Mason’s Center for the Arts. We will also be seeing him much more of Turner in the coming months and in a wider array of venues with his receipt of the prestigious Julius Rudel/Kurt Weill Conducting Fellow from the Kurt Weill Foundation.

One more fascinating tidbit I learned about Turner from recent conversations with some of his colleagues at the Virginia Opera; Ellen Bender and Howard Bender. Turner has a nickname: the “Marathon Maestro.” But more of that later into this column.

13_va-la-boheme-2Turner, age 32, will be conducting the Virginia Symphony Orchestra at the upcoming performances of that timeless masterpiece of love and broken hearts, Puccini’s La Boheme. In a recent interview, Turner described the La Boheme cast as “the very best of the best singers who have experience in their roles from productions around the country” making their Virginia Opera debuts. They are the two doomed lover; poet Rodolfo (Jason Slayden) and seamstress Mimi (Elaine Alvarez) and the freethinking couple, Musetta (Zulimar López-Hernández) and Marcello (Edward Parks).

The setting for La Boheme will be “fresh and new” according to Turner. The Virginia Opera’s production takes place in the winter of 1938-39 Paris on the cusp major hostilities of WWII. Moving the setting to pre-war Paris is expected to make it even “more relatable” for modern viewers, whether Baby Boomers or Millennials according to Turner. Just as Jonathan Larson moved the strong bones of La Boheme setting to downtown New York City and its denizens in his Rent.

Now, about the Julius Rudel/Kurt Weill Conducting Fellow Award. The fellowship was established to provide opportunities for a young conductor to assist a conduction in the preparation and performance of a work by Kurt Weill or Marc Blitzstein. The Award will also expand the conductor’s knowledge of Weill and Blitzstein. The Award includes a $10,000 stipend as well.

With the fellowship, Turner will serve as the “cover” conductor working alongside Maestro John DeMain, for the upcoming February 2016, Washington National Opera production of Weill’s Lost in the Stars directed by Tazewell Thompson.

Lost in the Stars is a Kurt Weill musical with book and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson.  It based upon the masterwork Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) by Alan Paton.  The Kennedy Center production will feature bass-baritone Eric Owens stars in Kurt Weill’s final work for the stage and many emerging artists. The 1949 musical was Weill’s last work for the stage before he died the following year.

The in Mary 2016, Turner will be conducting Romeo and Juliette for the Lyric Opera in Baltimore.

So, what about that tidbit, about the “Marathon Maestro”? Now, over time I have come to know Turner and learned of his passion for running marathons. Turner also mentioned to me that “conducting requires intense focus, and can be mentally exhausting.” It “requires a lot of physical endurance”.

From my recent chat with Ellen Bender, I came to know that Turner’s running schedule will include the Richmond Marathon on the morning of November 14th, and then he drives up 95 to Fairfax to conduct the Virginia Opera’s La Boheme at the Mason Center for the Arts. Now that is no easy feat (or might I say ‘feet’). Let’s just say that Turner clearly has a career “on the long run.”

Adam Turner. Photo by Keitaro Harada
Adam Turner. Photo by Keitaro Harada

So, Opera is in good hands as Adam Turner reaches out to Baby Boomers and Millennials alike with wondrous musical tales of death, sex and money.” Think I will put on my headsets and listen to Musetta’s Waltz, some Rent, then finally a bit of Queen and two shots of espresso to go on my morning walk, to start my day.

Virginia Opera’s La Boheme plays on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 8 PM and Sunday, November 15 at 2 PM at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts – 4373 Mason Pond Drive, in Fairfax, VA. For tickets, purchase them online. Here are directions.


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