Opera News Feature

Maestro Modern

Oct 2017

AT THIRTY-ONE, conductor Christopher Allen is one of the fastest-rising podium stars in North America. The Rockaway, Queens native was named resident conductor at Cincinnati Opera in 2015 and earlier this year received the prestigious Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award; recent seasons have brought debuts at English National Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Atlanta Symphony, Lyric Opera of Kansas City and LA Opera, where he served five years on the music staff. This season Allen leads Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain at North Carolina Opera and La Fille du Régiment at Atlanta Opera; spring 2018 brings a new production of La Traviata, directed by Patricia Racette, at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where Allen made his debut conducting his friend Ricky Ian Gordon’s Grapes of Wrath in May. Allen’s leadership of Gordon’s broad-ranging score was a model of clarity, vigor and intelligence, keenly detailed and richly colored; his work with soloists, chorus and orchestra was first-class.

SCHMOPERA Feature

Spotlight on Christopher Allen

Feb 2016

American conductor Christopher Allen is a rising figure in today’s opera scene. He has assisted the likes of Robert Spano, Plácido Domingo, James Conlon, and Donald Runnicles, and he made his conducting debut with the Cincinnati Symphony, for the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Morning Star. As the newly named John L. Magro Resident Conductor for Cincinnati Opera, he’ll conduct their production of Tosca in July 2016.

Allen recently made his UK debut with English National Opera’s production of The Barber of Seville, and in March, he conducts Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at Lyric Opera of Kansas City. We had the chance to ask him about his work, about communication skills, and the role opera plays in his time on the podium.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Grapes of Wrath

“In the pit, Conductor Christopher Allen ruled with a sure hand and a full heart, wringing passion and pathos out of his musicians in equal measure. Maestro Allen not only embraced the sweeping cinematic phrases, he also injected sass and wit into the folk-like sections. Best, he managed to support and propel the soloists as they strove unrestrained to reach the emotional jugular in their arias and confrontations. He expertly shepherded the opera’s immense forces, including Cory John Franklin’s meticulously prepared chorus.”

- James Sohre, Opera Today
Cincinnati Opera

Tosca

“In the pit, the orchestra turned in a glorious performance under resident conductor Christopher Allen. One of the most unforgettable moments was the prelude to Act III, with its stunning horn calls. Allen knew just how to breathe life into Puccini’s magnificent melodies, and the audience went home humming.”

- Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer
Los Angeles Opera

“The company’s associate conductor Christopher Allen made an auspicious debut with a difficult assignment.”

- Mark Swed, LA Times
Atlanta Symphony

Guest conductors allow the Atlanta audience to get a different perspective on familiar music. While it might not be obvious, the musicians play for the conductor differently, the guest artist makes different choices in how to approach each score, and regular audience members get to hear how the orchestra reacts to new direction. Allen’s second appearance with the ASO comes on the wings of an ever-growing amount of glowing reviews. Here’s hoping he continues to make Atlanta a frequent stop in his travels.”

- Jon Ross, Atlanta Journal-Constitution 
Opera Philadelphia

“[Racette’s] partner in music-making, pianist Christopher Allen proved a thrilling collaborator, finding orchestral colors in his virtuosic playing.”

- James Sohre, Opera Today
Los Angeles Opera

“Christopher Allen’s sensitive conducting of a reduced LA Opera Orchestra elicited a high degree of poetry and dramatic momentum from the score.”

- Simon Williams, Opera News
Cincinnati Opera

Tosca

“From the moment the three “Scarpia chords” appear (before the curtain goes up), a bolt of energy arrives from the pit, and comes back again and again, thanks to the idiomatic conducting of Christopher Allen. He draws every bit of Puccini’s grandeur from the musicians and then delivers the key moments of lyricism with suppleness and sensitivity.”

- Rafael de Acha, Seen and Heard International
San Diego Opera

“Allen, a rising star as an opera conductor, provided such attentive, unassuming support for the trio of singers that his virtuosic performance of the G-sharp minor Rachmaninoff prelude and Scriabin D-sharp minor etude to open the second set may have surprised many in the audience.”

- Ron Bierman, Broadway World
Opera Philadelphia

“Music Director and pianist Christopher Allen offered artistic salvation from beginning to end, including his rendition of Poulenc’s Intermezzo no. 3 during the opening scene…

- Susan Gould, Bachtrack
Opera Philadelphia

“The pianist [is the] excellent and deliciously louche Christopher Allen.”

- Clive Paget, Musical America
Aspen Music Festival

Il barbiere di Siviglia

“Sensitive playing accompanied him by the ad hoc student orchestra, under Christopher Allen, a young conductor fostered by Placido Domingo and James Conlon. It looked like this was going to be good, and it was. The pace never flagged, and the singing was strong up and down the cast.”

- Harvey Steiman, Aspen Times
Opera Philadelphia

Ne Quittez Pas

“At equal partnership with Racette is Music Director and Pianist, Christopher Allen. His playing of Poulenc’s writing is superb. From the first tones of Poulenc’s Intermezzo No. 3 to the final sounds of the opera, each and every note was played with such clarity, command, and tenderness, that the audience is left unaware of the immense difficulty of the music.”

- Erik Flaten, Schmopera
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

The Grapes of Wrath

“In his OTSL debut, conductor Christopher Allen, winner of the 2017 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award, was impressive in his command of the score and maintaining a good balance with the stage. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra overcame the acoustical handicaps of the Loretto-Hilton’s pit to give a first-rate performance.”

- Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Cincinnati Opera

The Magic Flute

“In the pit, resident conductor Christopher Allen propelled a performance that was lighter than air. The overture, with its scurrying strings and somber brass chords, was magical and crystal clear, and he rarely overpowered the singers. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra sounded sublime in this music, particularly the birdcatcher’s first appearance to the magical piccolo of Joan Voorhees.”

- Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer
Opera Theater of Saint Louis

Grapes of Wrath

“There was a lot to like about this “Grapes of Wrath”… Christopher Allen (recently heard in Washington leading “The Daughter of the Regiment”) conducted with energy, bringing out the colors of the score.”

- Anne Midgette, Washington Post
Cincinnati Opera

Cincinnati Symphony Park Concert

“It was a performance that was at once supportive, unassuming, and richly musical. Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that Christopher Allen is being noticed.”

- Musical America
Michigan Opera Theatre

The Barber of Seville

“Conductor Christopher Allen, in his company debut, led from the harpsichord, where he kept the outstanding MOT orchestra light on their figurative feet and still had time to drop in a few tongue-in-cheek Wagner references”

- Opera News
Arizona Opera

La bohème

“Conductor Christopher Allen drew fine virtuosic playing from the Arizona Opera Orchestra. His rendition allowed Puccini’s music to soar into Phoenix Symphony Hall with dramatic, forward-moving tempi and radiant sound. The orchestra was bright when it accompanied the gaiety of Christmas Eve at the Momus Cafe but it darkened with the snowy dawn of Act three. The orchestral sound grew ever more threatening with Mimi’s increasing weakness and it noted her death with considerable percussion. This was Allen’s debut at AZ Opera and he is undeniably the real deal. There is no doubt that the performance of “La Bohème” was a superb performance and I hope Maestro Allen will be back to lead more such shows in Arizona.“

- Maria Nockin, OperaWire
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

La traviata

“Conductor Christopher Allen holds a strong baton for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as they master the powerful and often playful score by Verdi.”

- Stage Door St. Louis
Opera Theater of Saint Louis

La traviata

“The music flowed smoothly under Christopher Allen’s leadership…”

- George Loomise, Opera Magazine
Washington National Opera

La fille du régiment

“Washington National Opera Orchestra Conductor Christopher Allen interprets Donizetti’s music with utter sensitivity and nuance.”

- David Friscic, DC Metro Theater Arts
Washington National Opera

“WNO continues their streak of debuting young conductors with the debut of the super in-demand Christopher Allen.”

- Jenny Minich, Broadway World
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

“One of the bright lights was the small orchestra, members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, led by Christopher Allen. Newly appointed as Cincinnati Opera’s resident conductor, the conductor propelled the score with well-judged tempos and attention to detail.

- Janelle Gelfland, Cincinnati Enquirer