Before Saturday’s showcase— which will take place at Verizon Hall on the Kimmel Cultural Campus—Lina Gonzalez-Granados talked about how it is she came to the conductor’s baton, to Philadelphia, and to her leadership role.
"The program is unique in the way it is devised. The book is one that kids from the Kauffman Center wrote, and the aesthetic idea comes from the need to reframe this story as they feel fit. Kids of this age being responsible for that goal – there is pride in that, and beauty. The Philadelphia Orchestra are helpers in that. My role here is to curate, to create a libretto based on their book and their experiences writing, to put them at the center of the story. They love how people are rediscovering Price and other Black women composers. This is a story from the kids for the kids. African-American music is American music – that is important to know."
Last September, Colombia-born Lina González-Granados was appointed the new resident conductor of the L.A. Opera, a post she'll hold through June 2025. The internationally recognized conductor is dedicated to highlighting new and unknown works by Latin-American composers. Learn how González-Granados fell in love with music and overcomes challenges in a historically male-dominated industry.
Audiences in Philadelphia had the opportunity to rediscover the works of two Black composers from the mid-20th century last week. A day after the Philadelphia Orchestra returned William Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony to its repertory, Opera Philadelphia introduced Credo by Margaret Bonds, a cantata setting of a text by W E B Du Bois that celebrates the beauty and resilience of Black American life.
"In her Opera Philadelphia debut, conductor Lina González-Granados brought out a sweeping grandeur in the orchestra when necessary, but her approach was most notable for threading a seamless narrative needle across the cantata’s seven movements."
The concert echoed W.E.B. Du Bois' message in musical form... Choruses, orchestra and vocal soloists presented the odd pairing of Orff’s Carmina Burana, famous for its screaming sound, and Margaret Bond’s Credo, quiet by comparison and hardly known at all.
"She has clear technique and a way with phrase-shaping that tells a compelling story — qualities that make a good case for her return in other repertoire."
Lina González-Granados spoke with AL DÍA to discuss her journey and just what her impending debut means to her as one of the very few Latinas in this industry.
“It’s always very profound and philosophical when you conduct, but for me, when you can be more in contact with the community, those are the moments that I feel that my job is doing something.”
"I think we have the privilege to actually be an active part of creating that tradition, instead of following somebody else’s interpretation. The text is beautifully adapted, and I have the only – and to be honest the most important – tool I need, which is the score. As long as we are honoring Margaret Bonds’ intentions and creative instincts, that is the only thing I pay attention to."
"Indeed, as presented by Los Angeles Opera, the urgency and in-your-face elements of an octet of singers and a 13-piece LAO ensemble, insightfully led by Resident Conductor Lina González-Granados, gave new meaning to the words intimacy, clarity, and beauty, all wrapped in a damning and brutal storyline."
Lina Gonzalez-Granados joined L.A. Opera as its new resident conductor in September, opening its season with a bold production of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” winning over audiences with a robust, fluid conducting style.
In a concert hall in downtown Los Angeles on a recent Saturday evening, classical music fans applauded a superstar Latin American conductor with pride and enthusiasm. It wasn’t L.A.’s familiar Venezuelan with tightly coiled salt and pepper curls onstage, but rather a newer face in town — a Colombian American with smooth, shiny brown hair slicked back into a bouncy ponytail.
"When González-Granados conducts, it’s as if the music is alive inside her body, flowing through her arms, dancing with all the right steps."
As Lina González-Granados made her way through the pit to the podium at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion last Saturday, the audience buzzed with an especially welcoming and animated applause. Appointed the Resident Conductor of the LA Opera last September, the evening was her debut appearance with the company, an opportunity to demonstrate the energy and presence she hopes to bring to the orchestra.
"Lucia di Lammermoor becomes indispensable, with tremendous modern-day relevance. González-Granados succeeds in leading a performance that expresses profound emotion, enhancing the cathartic effect of the opera."
In this LA Opera co-production with the Metropolitan Opera, the seventeenth-century Scottish setting of Lucia di Lammermoor, which is based on Sir Walter Scott’s novel, has been replaced by a kaleidoscopic vision of a present-day, depressed town in America’s rust belt.
"The new resident conductor, Lina González-Granados, formerly assistant conductor to Riccardo Muti at the Chicago Symphony, was in the pit and the LAO Orchestra was in good hands. The music sparkled, the singers were perfectly supported, and the tragic underpinnings of the famous score bristled."
For the season opener Lucia di Lammermoor, director Simon Stone set the seventeenth-century Scottish period piece in a present-day American Midwestern town fallen on hard times with drug and economic issues.
"L.A. Opera’s new resident conductor Lina González-Granados (born in Colombia) proves Mr. Porter right, turning Donizetti’s orchestral accompaniment into something taut and thrilling"
We had two very important debuts to look forward to in the form of our new resident conductor Lina Gonzalez-Granados and innovative stage director Simon Stone.
"Maestro Gonzalez-Granados not only led a fiercely exciting performance but managed to capture the dark sound in Donizetti’s orchestrations necessary to convey the growing sense of foreboding in the story. She never failed to provide sensitive and stylish accompaniment to her able cast, even offering beautiful rubato effects in some of those aforementioned repeats and strettas that highlighted both the singers and the music to their fullest."
González-Granados seemed right at home at the Bowl… a show of raw power, an aural force to glue you to your seat (or bench)…this “Scheherazade” came on strong and pretty much stayed that way.
The 36-year-old maestra, who makes her debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl on Aug. 11, has also racked up fistfuls of honors and rave reviews. OperaWire praised her “attention to orchestral colors,” while The Boston Musical Intelligencer commended her ability to create “lightning changes in tempo, meter, and effect.”
[González-Granados] emphasized the lyrical sweep of Beethoven’s music, integrating its shifting emotions into a cohesive whole... and the soaring, romantic melodies of Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 were an ideal showcase for Gonzalez-Granados’s ability to sculpt rich, heartfelt orchestral sound.
Now, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has its very own “last minute hero” story, too. Her name is Lina Gonzalez-Granados. And she was the winner of the fourth Chicago Symphony Orchestra Sir Georg Solti Conducting Competition. She served for a year as the Solti conducting apprentice under the guidance of maestro Riccardo Muti.
At once seductive and grandiose, Brahms drives this symphony to a heated finale, and the CSO musicians and Gonzalez-Granados (who was met with many rounds of enthusiastic applause), were with the composer every step of the way.
Review: Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lina González-Granados Exhibit Brilliance With the CSO
With only a few hours notice, the Colombian-American conductor González-Granados clicked with the orchestra, as if she’d been performing with them for years. The CSO helped by bringing its best playing, which was evident from the quiet opening of Beethoven’s violin concerto. As the section chairs traded the melody, which built as instruments joined the conversation, the playing was crisp and tight—no ragged edges at all. While the tempo was a bit slower than I like, their warmth was soulfully infectious. González-Granados built this into a lovely aural fabric... González-Granados seized on the Brahms immediately by entering the stage and starting things with barely a pause. The orchestra continued its fabulous night from the opening notes. Especially effective was the clarity each section showed when in the limelight, and then blending into the sound when a different section came to the fore. González-Granados was very much a part of the action, her arms swaying to the sounds while engaging each section.
The version was excellent: precise, passionate and with very clear ideas, carefully planned and executed. It was, therefore, a pleasant surprise that level of commitment in the first work of the program and, above all, the affinity of the director with this repertoire, which can provide stupendous interpretations.
The Colombian director Lina González-Granados showed confidence and maturity in the overture "The Force of Destiny", which opened the program. A very clear vision of this excellently made Verdi model.
With Riccardo Muti forced to withdraw from this weekend’s series of concerts, Lina González-Granados became the first Latina to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
…(Lina Gonzalez Granados) delivered clean, efficient performances of both selections and demonstrated a feel for the theatrical flair that is essential to both. With expansive, fluid gestures, she found the fun and whimsy in the “Barber” overture and brought it to a suitably boisterous conclusion but seemed most at home in the “Don Giovanni”, giving shape to its out-sized emotions.
The American-Colombian also came in third place in the list of La Maestra, the first competition reserved for female conductors, organized by the Philharmonie de Paris and the Paris Mozart Orchestra founded and directed by Claire Gibault.
Latinos in general have played an important role in the society of LA, and it's time for Latinas in general to take leadership. There are not that many [Latinas] in those positions of leadership culturally. I think it's just a huge responsibility. Hopefully, by me getting these accolades and this post, more Latinas are inspired. This is a real measurement of change that is happening.
The award-winning conductor is a strong believer that all music has potential to be a classical piece. "In L.A. in general, it's a city with such an explosion of multicultural resources. Our musics are as valuable as our beings," said Gonzalez-Granados.
Bryant Park Picnic Performances season of free, ticketed live performances will begin on June 9 at 7pm with a show featuring the New York Philharmonic's 25+ member orchestra. Additional performances are scheduled for June 10, 11 and 12.
Lina is one of ten conductors awarded a Career Assistance Award from the Solti Foundation US. These grants are given each year to young American conductors early in their careers who have chosen to follow a path similar to the legendary Sir Georg Solti.
Giving their perspective on the music industry and an insight into their own experiences, the eight conductors below will throughout the day share with us their hopes for encouraging more women into the profession.