KATHLEEN KELLY is a pianist, conductor, educator, and writer – and like many classical musicians, a recent experimenter with digital content. She is both deeply experienced in the classical vocal canon and engaged in new creation. Her 2021-22 finds her co-starring in Minnesota Opera’s digital premiere of Kamala Sankaram’s INTERSTATE, collaborating in recital with Ryan McKinny and Elena Villalon, and conducting the world premiere of Matt Boehler’s opera FAT PIG, starring activist soprano Tracy Cox.
The first woman and first American named as Director of Musical Studies at the Vienna State Opera, Kathleen’s operatic experience is the backbone of her career. Trained at the San Francisco Opera, she joined the company’s music staff and moved from there to a long association with the Metropolitan Opera. She was head of music at Houston Grand Opera, and music director of the Berkshire Opera before moving to Vienna. Kathleen has conducted at the Glimmerglass Festival, Wolf Trap Opera, Arizona Opera, El Paso Opera, Opera Columbus, the Merola Program, and the Alexandria Symphony, and has been a visiting master coach for the prestigious young artist programs of Chicago Lyric Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Minnesota Opera, and the Canadian Opera Company.
Kathleen’s recital career includes appearances at Weill Hall, Zankel Hall, the Kennedy Center, DC Vocal Arts, Wigmore Hall, Spivey Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein, the Mahlersaal of the Vienna State Opera, the Neue Galerie, the Schwabacher Series in San Francisco, Cincinnati Song Initiative, and the Tucson Desert Song Festival. Her recent collaboration with Jamie Barton has won wide acclaim, and her partners have included Christine Goerke, Michael Kelly, Troy Cook, Amber Wagner, Sorin Coliban, Joyce DiDonato, Ariana Strahl, Karen Slack, and Jennifer Holloway. She has curated art song series for the Houston Grand Opera and the Vienna State Opera, and is currently involved in the creation of new vocal works through Sparks and Wiry Cries’ songSLAM events.
In demand as a mentor of rising artists, Kathleen has given masterclasses and workshops across North America, including at the University of Toronto, the Schulich School at McGill University, University of Cincinnati, Baylor University, Vanderbilt University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Michigan, the Peabody Conservatory, University of Washington, Westminster Choir College, Harvard University, and Interlochen. She has served on the juries of the Wirth Prize at McGill University, the Dallas Opera Guild competition, the Kristin Lewis Foundation Scholarship auditions, the Cooper-Bing competition, and the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions.
Kathleen’s commitment to new music, particularly American music, is a major part of her musical life. She has prepared or conducted workshops or performances of operas by William Bolcom, Tobias Picker, Matthew Aucoin, Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, Laura Kaminsky, and Daron Hagen. Her recent recital programs have included world premieres by Juliana Hall and Judith Shatin.
Kathleen is an active participant in the digital space. As an educator, she has done frequent masterclasses and programs online, including for the Sewanee Festival, the Collaborative Piano Institute, Washington National Opera, and Minnesota Opera. She is the pianist on numerous digital collaborations, including Vanished with tenor Russell Thomas for the Dallas Opera, and Coronadaemmerung with Jamie Barton and Ryan Mckinny. Kathleen performed as a pianist in the Cincinnati Song Initiative all-digital season, and conducted the recorded soundtrack for Unsung, a movie produced by Victory Hall Opera released in February 2021.
A published poet and essayist, Kathleen has created several new opera translations and libretti. She is the co-librettist of Interstate, a chamber opera by Kamala Sankaram. Kathleen’s English adaptation of Hansel and Gretel, commissioned by Tri-Cities Opera, is now in use alongside her chamber orchestra arrangement of the work. For Arizona Opera, she created a multilingual version of Emmerich Kalman’s Arizona Lady, and she wrote the libretto for David Hanlon’s Wolf Trap premiere Listen, Wilhelmina! Her English adaptation of Smetana’s The Bartered Bride premiered in November 2019, and she created a new English adaptation of La boheme for Opera Columbus. Her English adaptation of Janacek’s Diary of One who Disappeared was used in Dallas Opera’s Vanished. Kathleen commissioned settings of three of her poems from composers David Hanlon, Jamie Leidwinger, and Juliana Hall. In 2021, one of her poems, “You,” was selected by Jake Heggie for inclusion in his song cycle “What I Miss,” premiered by Jamie Barton in the same year.