Michael Christie is a thoughtfully innovative conductor, equally at home in the symphonic and opera worlds, who is focused on making the audience experience at his performances entertaining, enlightening, and enriching. The New York Times reports, “Michael Christie is a director open to adventure and challenge,” and the Cincinnati Enquirer declares, “If Michael Christie represents the future of music in this country, the future looks promising indeed.”
Christie, who was featured in Opera News in August 2012 as one of 25 people believed to “to break out and become major forces in the field in the coming decade,” began his tenure as the first-ever Music Director of Minnesota Opera with the 2012–2013 season. His 16-year symphonic conducting career has included serving as Music Director of the Phoenix Symphony (2005–2013) and Brooklyn Philharmonic (2005–2010), and as Chief Conductor of the Queensland Orchestra (2001–2004) in Australia, as well as guest appearances leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, the Symphonies of Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta, Houston, Minnesota, Oregon, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. His New York Philharmonic debut came in March 2007 when he stepped in on short notice for an ailing Riccardo Muti, and his Carnegie Hall debut came in 2014 when he led the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Spring for Music festival. Christie also served as the Music Director of the Colorado Music Festival from 2000–2013, where he was highly praised for his innovative programming and where audiences are now at an all time high, resulting in him being named “Musician of the Year” by The Denver Post in 2010.
Over the course of his career, Christie has embarked on a series of intriguing and ambitious projects focused on growing and nurturing audiences. These include his Intermission Insights, designed to offer compelling engagement with the audience during one of the most fertile and underutilized moments during the concert, the intermission; Clef Notes, a short “real time” guide to a concert as it is being performed; and Click! The Community Commissioning Club, a program in which audiences can vote on composers to be commissioned. In addition, Christie has developed initiatives around introducing audience members to music outside the standard repertoire – from Baroque to contemporary – as well as interdisciplinary collaborations with visual artists, dance companies, theater groups, and contemporary composers such as Gorecki, Ligeti, Adams, Golijov, and Tan Dun.
Christie is also committed to bringing new works to life. During his tenure with the Phoenix Symphony, he premiered works by 16 living composers, and has championed commissions by leading and emerging composers alike, including Osvaldo Golijov, Matthew Hindson, Marjan Mozetich, Stephen Paulus, Michael Daugherty, Mason Bates, Mark Grey, and more. In 2011, Christie led Minnesota Opera in the world premiere performances of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night, which was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Anthony Tommasini praised his “supple pacing and vitality” in The New York Times, when Christie led the work in 2013 with Opera Philadelphia. He conducted the European premiere of the opera in October 2014 at the Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland, and will lead the production in May 2015 with Opéra de Montréal.
In June 2013, Christie made his San Francisco Opera debut with the world premiere performances of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. 2013–2014 highlights also included the world premiere of Twenty-Seven, a new opera by Ricky Ian Gordon commissioned by Opera Theatre of St. Louis starring Stephanie Blythe as Gertrude Stein; the world premiere of a new work by Matthew Hindson with the Phoenix Symphony; and productions of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, Richard Strauss’ Arabella, and Verdi’s Macbeth with Minnesota Opera.
Christie’s 2014–2015 season will include performances of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West, Bizet’s Carmen, and the world premiere of Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell’s new opera, The Manchurian Candidate at Minnesota Opera; engagements with the Phoenix, Santa Rosa, Elgin, and Kalamazoo Symphonies; and a concert of Mozart and Sibelius arias with the Scottish Opera featuring British soprano Rosalind Coad.
Notable past engagements include highly praised productions of Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles and John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, and the North American premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland, all with Opera Theatre of St. Louis; the European premieres of The Ghosts of Versailles at the Wexford Festival Opera; Minnesota Opera performances of Verdi’s La traviata, Bernard Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, and Donizetti’s Anna Bolena; as well as various performances at Opernhaus Zürich and Finnish National Opera.
Christie’s many European engagements have included leading the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Orchestre National de Lille, Swedish and Netherlands Radio Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, NDR Hannover Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic. In addition, Christie enjoys a strong profile in Australia, where he has conducted the Sydney Symphony, Tasmanian Symphony, Opera Queensland, and the Western Australian Symphony in Perth.
Michael Christie first came to international attention in 1995 when he was awarded a special prize for “Outstanding Potential” at the First International Sibelius Conductors’ Competition in Helsinki. Following the competition, he was invited to become an apprentice conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra where he subsequently worked with Daniel Barenboim as well as at the Berlin State Opera during the 1996–1997 season. Christie graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music with a bachelor's degree in trumpet performance. He is married to Alexis, a physician, and they have a daughter, Sinclair, and a son, Beckett.