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James Gaffigan Returning to Conduct Academy Festival Finale

James Gaffigan, whose dazzling performances on many of the world’s marquee stages have prompted critics to declare him the most talented young American conductor working today, will lead the Academy Festival Orchestra in its final concert of the 2013 Summer Festival season at Santa Barbara’s historic Granada Theatre on Saturday, Aug. 10.

Featuring a program of grand Romantic works punctuating this year’s festival theme of “Magic, Legend and Ritual” — including the overture to Wagner’s Rienzi, songs from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique — the concert will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $15.

Hailed for the natural ease of his conducting and the compelling insight of his musicianship, Gaffigan was appointed chief conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in January 2010. At the beginning of the 2012-13 season, he was named the first-ever guest conductor of Cologne’s Gürzenich Orchestra.

Gaffigan’s international career was launched when he was named a first-prize winner at the 2004 Sir Georg Solti International Conducting Competition in Frankfurt, Germany. Since then he has become a sought-after guest conductor throughout Europe, working with prestigious orchestras such as the Munich and Rotterdam philharmonics, the Dresden Staatskappelle, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the London and Czech philharmonic orchestras and the Camerata Salzburg, among others.

In the United States, Gaffigan has served as guest conductor of the Cleveland, Philadelphia and Minnesota orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Houston, Baltimore, Vancouver, Milwaukee and New World symphonies, among others. In 2009 he completed a three-year tenure as associate conductor with the San Francisco Symphony, having previously served as assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Gaffigan made his professional opera debut at the Zurich Opera in June 2005, conducting La Bohème, and last year led performances of La Cenerentola at Glyndebourne. Currently in the process of recording the complete Prokofiev symphonies with the Netherland Radio Philharmonic, he is also recording the nine Beethoven symphonies with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra in Doha for Naxos.

Gaffigan made his Music Academy debut last year, conducting Ives’ Three Places in New England and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major (“Titan”) to conclude the 2012 Summer Festival. Writing in the Santa Barbara News-Press afterward, critic Joe Woodard praised his “supple and supportive guidance.”

Four Academy Voice Fellows will appear with the Academy Festival Orchestra for songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn on Aug. 10: soprano Alexandra Razskazoff, mezzo-sopranos Sara Couden and Diana Yodzis, and baritone John Brancy. Brancy was recently named a winner of the 2013 Music Academy of the West Marilyn Horne Song Competition.

The Granada Theatre is located at 1216 State St. in Santa Barbara. The Music Academy’s 2013 Orchestra Series is generously supported by Robert Weinman.

Remaining highlights of the academy’s 2013 season include an ambitious new production of Mozart’s beloved opera The Magic Flute, as well as performances by violinist Midori and conductor Nicholas McGegan. Featuring the academy’s exceptionally talented Fellows, together with illustrious guest performers and faculty, the events are being presented at the academy’s scenic Miraflores campus and in venues throughout Santa Barbara.

For tickets and information, call 805.969.8787. Information is also available online by clicking here.

— Tim Dougherty is the communications manager for the Music Academy of the West.

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