Minnesota Opera is shoring up the pit. After coming to a contract agreement with the company's orchestra musicians last spring, it has chosen their new boss.
Christopher Franklin was announced as Minnesota Opera's new principal conductor on Monday, filling a position vacant since Michael Christie's departure in 2018. (The position was then called "music director.") And Franklin will be getting right to work, conducting the company's productions of Gaetano Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love" — which runs at St. Paul's Ordway Music Theater from Jan. 27 to Feb. 4 — and Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme," May 4-19.
Franklin's three-year contract calls for him to conduct most performances through the 2025-26 season. He also will be part of Minnesota Opera's artistic planning team, which chooses its upcoming productions and new operas to develop.
It's a homecoming of sorts for Franklin. The Pittsburgh native is a 1990 graduate of St. Paul's Macalester College who often visited Minnesota during the summers of his youth, as his father is from Willmar.
"Since my student days at Macalester, I've known the Twin Cities to be such an open-minded and arts-friendly community," Franklin said in a statement. "It's an honor to be stepping into more regular collaboration with such a respected and forward-looking opera company and its wonderful artists."
Franklin received graduate degrees from the University of Illinois and the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, studied as a Fulbright scholar in Saarbrücken, Germany, and subsequently won two conducting competitions in Italy. A veteran of productions at many Italian opera houses, he lives in Lucca, Italy, with his wife, Sicilian soprano Rossella Bevacqua, and their three children. He's also the conductor of choice for celebrated tenor Juan Diego Flórez, leading the orchestra at many of his concert presentations.
Franklin's relationship with Minnesota Opera stretches back to 2011, when he conducted Gioachino Rossini's "La Cenerentola" (or "Cinderella"). He has since returned to conduct productions of "La Traviata," "Hamlet," "Thaïs," "Così fan tutte," "Doubt" and "The Anonymous Lover."
"It was critical for us to identify a principal conductor who approaches the work of reimagining existing operas and developing new ones with equal care and curiosity," said Ryan Taylor, Minnesota Opera's president and general director. "We are thrilled to have found those qualities in Christopher."
Rob Hubbard is a Twin Cities classical music writer. Reach him at email@example.com.