French-British conductor Kay Salomon is set to take part in Opera North’s new Female Conductor Traineeship, the Leeds-based company has announced. She will join Opera North in Leeds at the end of this year.
It remains the case that talented female conductors are less likely to find a way into the industry than their male counterparts. In recognition of this, Opera North launched its new trainee scheme in July 2021. The initiative offers wide-ranging experience and support within the company. It is enabled by the Harewood Young Artists Fund as part of the Opera North Future Fund.
Saloman will join Opera North on 29 November, observing preparations for the company’s forthcoming 2021-22 season. She will experience productions of Rigoletto (Verdi, 1851), Alcina (Handel, 1735) and Carmen (Bizet, 1875) from first musical rehearsals with the soloists and conductor, through coaching sessions, chorus and production rehearsals, right up to stage and final rehearsals with orchestra and singers.
The Périgueux, France-born conductor was awarded her Master’s in Conducting from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama this summer. “Young conductors can feel rather vulnerable when finishing music college, but being offered this traineeship is a real confidence booster”, she commented. “I cannot express how excited I was to be selected for the traineeship. I am incredibly grateful to Opera North for being so committed to supporting young female conductors and offering such a unique opportunity.”
It was during her studies at the Royal Northern College of Music that Saloman realised how much she wanted to conduct: “I had conducted a composition of mine during my A-levels and had been fascinated ever since. During my time in Manchester, I would avidly attend symphonic concerts every week, feeding my curiosity about the repertoire, and I suppose it was my critical and musical instinct that drew me to conducting.
“I always felt that I also had something to say, and often believed in rather different interpretations to the ones I saw performed, but it is the emotion stemming from the music, whether from symphonic music, operas or ballets, that inspired me to conduct: I just wanted to be part of this music-making too.”
After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in piano, Saloman took a two-year position conducting a student orchestra in Münster. During that time she received coaching from Sian Edwards, head of conducting at the Royal Academy of Music, via the Sorell Women Conductors Programme.
She will be reunited with Edwards for one of a series of one-to-ones as part of the 10-week traineeship. Edwards is set to conduct the Orchestra of Opera North in a mixed programme of music by Shostakovich, Gershwin and Mussorgsky in Huddersfield on 2 December.
Saloman will also act as musical assistant to Nick Shaw, Opera North’s youth chorus master, for Youth Opera Project performances of Hans Krása’s children’s opera Brundibár (1942). Shaw will conduct the Opera North Youth Company for shows in Leeds and Newcastle in January 2022.
“I am eagerly looking forward to learning from the wonderful conductors, musicians and casts over the coming months,” Saloman continued.
The scheme also includes two dedicated workshops under the guidance of Opera North’s Music Director Garry Walker, providing first-hand experience of conducting the company’s award-winning orchestra. “We had a fantastic level of interest shown in the traineeship, and from a tremendous breadth of experience,” Walker said.
“It’s never an easy task whittling down so much talent to just one person. Indeed, it galvanised my opinion that this should be an ongoing position. We hope that this initiative will encourage more female artists to see opera and orchestral music as a viable career path, and to ensure that our company and the industry at large is drawing on the widest range of professional conducting talent, now and in the future.
“Kay showed all the qualities that we thought would be required, and we hope she will be able to develop her existing skills further within the Opera North family.”
Saloman’s work with Opera North’s Education department will involve assisting with In Harmony sessions in primary schools in Leeds; preparations for the annual ‘Big Sing’ with schoolchildren in the north; weekly rehearsals of Opera North’s three Youth Choruses and newly formed Youth Orchestra; and Orchestra Academy weekends and workshops.
Opera North is a signatory of the Keychange initiative, a global movement working towards gender equality in the music industry.
“I cannot emphasise enough how valuable these initiatives are to a young, female conductor,” Saloman added. “I personally feel that it is thanks to the Sorell course, a recent Jette Parker Young Artist course for female conductors at the Royal Opera House, and my Master’s course that gave me the tools to get onto this traineeship. These schemes show that there is faith in female conductors, and there is the desire to bridge the gap in terms of opportunities offered between men and women.
“This is a real opportunity to develop as a conductor, and I cannot wait for this inspirational experience!”
French-British conductor Kay Salomon will join Opera North in Leeds at the end of this year to take part in the company’s new Female Conductor Traineeship.