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Nathalie Stutzmann

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Contralto and conductor Nathalie Stutzmann is well-known for her charismatic performances on the stage and at the podium. After establishing an international career on the recital, concert, and opera stages, she has become a regular guest conductor with ensembles across North America and Europe, is the chief conductor of the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra, and founded and conducted the Orfeo 55 orchestra. In 2021, Stutzmann was heard singing and conducting Orfeo 55 on the album Contralto, and was named the music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, becoming only the second woman to hold the directorship of a major American orchestra. Stutzmann was born on May 6, 1965 in Suresnes, France, a suburb of Paris. She began to make music at an early age, studying the piano and bassoon, along with voice lessons with her mother, Christiane Stutzmann, who is an accomplished chamber musician on the piano and bassoon. She studied at the Conservatoire à rayonnement régional du Grand Nancy and then the École Nationale in Paris, where her teachers included Hans Hotter, Christa Ludwig, and Daniel Ferro. An early triumph came in 1983 when Stutzmann won the Brussels Vocal Competition. She made her professional debut at the Salle Pleyel in Paris in 1985, in a performance of Bach's Magnificat, BWV 243. The following year, Stutzmann garnered attention for her recital debut in Nantes and her operatic debut at the Paris Opera in a performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. A 1989 recording of Handel's Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11 under Marc Minkowski helped launch Stutzmann's international performing and recording career. Her opera repertoire leans heavily on French opera, as when she played Geneviève in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, but it also includes Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, and Wagner's Das Rheingold, among many others. Her concert works take in the major works of Bach, Vivaldi, and Mahler. In recital, Stutzmann has received accolades for her interpretations of art songs of the 19th and 20th centuries and German lieder. While at school, she developed an interest in conducting but found the field unwelcoming for a female conductor. This did not dissuade her; rather, it pushed her to develop the skill. While singing was an obvious career path for her, Stutzmann also studied with several prominent conductors: Seiji Ozawa, while performing with him in Japan, Sir Simon Rattle, and Jorma Panula, to whom Rattle referred Stutzmann for continued training. In 2009, she founded the Orfeo 55 chamber orchestra, conducting and soloing with the group until its dissolution in 2019. Her first major appointment was as the principal guest conductor of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra from 2017 until 2020. Her performances with this group were met with positive reviews from audiences and critics. In 2018, Stutzmann became the chief conductor of the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra, the first woman to hold this post. She also became the first woman to hold a conducting post with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2021 when she took the role of principal guest conductor with the famed orchestra. She has also taken the seemingly natural path as an opera conductor, making her Metropolitan Opera debut in the 2021-2022 season conducting Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride. Stutzmann has recorded for all of the major labels, signing an exclusive contract with Warner Classics/Erato in 2014. She has won several awards for her recordings, including the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik and Diapason d'Or. Among her most popular albums are recordings of Schumann's lieder, Schubert's Winterreise, and Debussy's Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien: Stutzmann earned a Grammy nomination for the latter. In 2021, she conducted Orfeo 55 and sang on the album Contralto, which featured several world premiere recordings. That year, she was named music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, succeeding long-time director Robert Spano and becoming only the second woman to hold the directorship of a major American orchestra.
© Keith Finke /TiVo
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