Cardiff-based Welsh National Opera (WNO) has announced that Tianyi Lu has joined the company as its first female conductor in residence. This follows an open call for aspiring conductors to apply for the post and an audition process with WNO Orchestra earlier this year.

The WNO Conductor in Residence scheme aims to equip budding female conductors with the necessary training and experience to pursue conducting careers. It will involve working closely with WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus and the WNO Orchestra across a range of repertoire, including main-scale opera, as well as youth and community projects.

The 18-month residency was developed following the company’s ‘Where Are All the Women?’ symposium in 2018, during which a panel of female delegates shared their experiences of the challenges facing women in the classical music industry. Tianyi Lu is the first recipient. WNO Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi described her as having “great musicality with a natural charisma on the podium”.

Born in Shanghai and raised in New Zealand, Tianyi Lu studied in Auckland and Melbourne before completing a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. She has previously worked with the youth and community team on WNO Youth Opera’s award-winning production of Kommilitonen! (Maxwell Davies, 2011) in 2016.

She commented: “I am thrilled to be back in Cardiff, my second home, to work with the many creative and courageous individuals that make up the vibrant organisation that is WNO. The company has inspired me for many years and I will relish the opportunity to dive into the diverse range of projects during my post over the next 18 months.”

Tianyi Lu began her residency in August, working with Music Director Tomáš Hanus, WNO Associate Conductor Harry Ogg and the WNO music team on a new production of Carmen (Bizet, 1875), as well as observing preparatory work on Rigoletto (Verdi, 1851) and The Cunning Little Vixen (Janáček, 1924). She will be assistant conductor for the spring performances of Carmen, leading two of these at the Liverpool Empire on 26 and 28 March, and will be involved in the season’s youth and community projects.

She will also have the opportunity to be mentored by British conductor Alice Farnham. Alice was curator of WNO’s symposium on women in music in 2018 and is artistic director of the Women Conductors programme at the Royal Philharmonic Society.

Emma Flatley, director of partnerships and engagement at WNO, said: “We are taking positive action to redress the imbalance of women in conducting posts and this is the first step for us in creating a developmental position and opportunity specifically for women geared towards increasing diversity and opportunity. We recognise that there is much work to do to encourage further diversity across the opera sector, but this scheme will specifically enable women, who are particularly under-represented in the classical music sector at the moment, and provide the opportunity for greater diversity across the professional sector in the future.”



Singapore-born Tianyi Lu has been appointed the WNO’s first female conductor in residence (Antony Potts).