Maestro John DeMain has served as Artistic Director of Madison Opera since 1994. He is also the Music Director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and a sought-after guest conductor of orchestras and opera companies around the world.
Recent opera productions include Porgy and Bess at Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago; Aida at Virginia Opera; Show Boat at Lyric Opera of Chicago; Nixon in China at Vancouver Opera; Pagliacci and Carmina Burana at Portland Opera; and A View from the Bridge at Washington National Opera and Portland Opera. As the artistic director of Opera Pacific, he led a seven-company co-production of Dead Man Walking. He has also conducted A Little Night Music and The Merry Widow at Los Angeles Opera; The Glassblowers and Little Women at Glimmerglass Opera; Tosca at New York City Opera; and Candide at the Festival Euro Mediterraneo in Rome. Future seasons find him at the Glimmerglass Festival, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera, and Seattle Opera.
In the orchestral world, DeMain’s active conducting schedule has taken him to the stages of the National Symphony, Seattle Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Pacific Symphony, Boston Pops, Aspen Chamber Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Orchestra of Seville and the Leipzig MDR Sinfonieorchester. In 2007, he donated a critically acclaimed performance to Costa Rica’s Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional to benefit their National Institute of Music. He has also been a regular conductor with Mexico’s Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional and National Opera of Mexico in Mexico City.
During his distinguished 18-year tenure with Houston Grand Opera, DeMain led a history-making production of Porgy and Bess, which he subsequently recorded for RCA, and won a Grammy Award, Tony Award, and France’s Grand Prix du Disque. New York City Opera’s 2002 production of Porgy and Bess, conducted by DeMain, was televised as part of the “Live from Lincoln Center” series and garnered an Emmy nomination.
His orchestral world premieres includes Ned Rorem’s Mallet Concerto, Daniel Catan’s Suite from Florencia en Amazonas, and Joel Hoffman’s The Forty Steps. He was invited by Leonard Bernstein to conduct the world premiere of his last opera, A Quiet Place, and also conducted the American premiere of Philip Glass’ Akhnaten, an operatic treatment of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, and the world premiere of Glass’ The Making of the Representative of Planet Eight. He conducted the world premieres of John Adams’ Nixon in China, Carlisle Floyd’s Willie Stark and The Passion of Jonathan Wade, and Sir Michael Tippet’s New Year.
“Live from Lincoln Center” has presented DeMain’s productions of An American Christmas with James Earl Jones, Willie Stark, Treemonisha, Nixon in China and Plácido Domingo & Friends. His contributions to the series were celebrated in the 2006 30th Anniversary Broadcast, which featured excerpts of his New York City Opera Porgy and Bess production and of “No Puede Ser” with legendary tenor Plácido Domingo. DeMain has worked extensively with Domingo in concerts throughout the world, most notably the celebrated 1992 Concert for the Planet Earth from Rio de Janeiro.
DeMain began his career as a pianist and conductor in his native Youngstown, Ohio. After winning the Youngstown Symphony’s piano competition at age 18, he went on to earn his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the Juilliard School in New York. He made a highly acclaimed debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and was the second recipient of the Julius Rudel Award at New York City Opera. He was also one of the first six conductors to receive the Exxon/National Endowment for the Arts Conductor Fellowship for his work with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
DeMain holds honorary degrees from the University of Nebraska and Edgewood College and was recently named a Fellow by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. He resides in Madison with his wife Barbara; their daughter Jennifer is a student at the UW-Madison.