English Touring Opera (ETO) has announced the appointment of Gerry Cornelius as the company’s new music director, with the conductor taking up the role with immediate effect.
Born of Irish and Sri Lankan parents and raised in south-east London, Cornelius has conducted many of the UK’s leading orchestras, including those of the English National Opera (ENO), Welsh National Opera and English National Ballet, as well as the Hallé Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra and London Sinfonietta. He studied music and conducting at Durham University, the Royal Academy of Music in London and the State Conservatory of St Petersburg.
Cornelius conducted the ETO’s 2019 production of Verdi’s Macbeth (1847). Other notable acclaimed productions include Tansy Davies’s Between Worlds, a 2015 commission for ENO, Catherine Kontz’s Neige, which premiered at the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg in 2013, and the 2013 British premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s American Lulu (2012) for The Opera Group, Scottish Opera Orchestra and London Sinfonietta.
“I am hugely honoured and excited to be taking up the role of music director with ETO and joining such a vibrant company of artists, producers, technicians and opera lovers,” Cornelius commented. “Mindful of my distinguished predecessors, the artistic excellence of the company, but also of the devastating time we have been through, I cannot wait to fully immerse myself in the company’s culture and join its plans to burst back to making live performances of great opera and theatre across the country as soon as possible.
“Having already relished the fact that I live close to the company’s iconic London venue at Hackney Empire, I am now even more keen to get out of lockdown so that I can also visit ETO’s new home at Mountview in Peckham, very close to where I went to school and spent (or wasted!) a lot of my time as a youngster.”
One of Cornelius’s first tasks as music director will be to conduct English Touring Opera’s production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel (1909) in the company’s forthcoming spring 2022 season. This three-act opera, derived from a verse fairytale by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, tells the tale of a bumbling tsar who falls in love with the beautiful tsaritsa of a neighbouring state, despite believing that she has plans to invade his country. His suspicions are correct, but she sees a way of gaining the country without going to battle – through marriage.
Cornelius will also work closely with English Touring Opera Director James Conway, who said: “I am very happy to be collaborating with Gerry, whose work and character I have long admired, at a time that is full of possibilities for English Touring Opera.”
In addition to his new role with ETO, Cornelius remains the principal guest conductor for the English National Ballet (ENB) with whom he has recently conducted Pina Bausch’s Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring, 1975), Akram Khan’s Giselle (2016) in Dublin, Luxembourg and at the Bolshoi in Moscow, and The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet for ENB’s London season and national and international tours.
Conductor Gerry Cornelius has been appointed English Touring Opera’s new music director (Edmund Choo).