Kathryn Smith has been General Director of Madison Opera since 2011. Under her leadership, Madison Opera has expanded its repertoire with twelve company premieres, created the Studio Artist Program, and built the Madison Opera Center, the company’s artistic and administrative home in downtown Madison. In Business magazine named her one of the “25 Most Influential People in Greater Madison” in 2014. She is a Vice Chair of OPERA America’s Board of Directors and Chair of the Women’s Opera Network Steering Committee.
A native of Seattle and graduate of Harvard University, Smith began her career at Lyric Opera of Chicago and Wolf Trap Opera before moving on to the Metropolitan Opera, where she became assistant artistic administrator. She was general director of Tacoma Opera for seven years, during which time she received ArtsFund’s “Outstanding Achievement in the Arts” award.
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.
He has been a regular guest conductor with Washington National Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival, New York City Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera, Virginia Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Aspen Music Festival, and Portland Opera. He was previously artistic director of Opera Pacific. This season, he conducts at Seattle Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu, and the Glimmerglass Festival, as well as at Madison 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, the Leipzig MDR Sinfonieorchester, and Mexico’s Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional.
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 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 is a Fellow of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. He resides in Madison with his wife, Barbara.