The Dallas Opera Hart Institute for Women Conductors Goes Virtual for 2021

The Dallas Opera announced that its acclaimed Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors, scheduled for February 8-19, 2021, will be conducted virtually because of the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TDO’s Hart Institute, launched in 2015, is the only program of its kind in the world and seeks to address the extreme gender imbalance of leadership on the podium in opera companies. Now in its sixth year, more than 500 women conductors from 40 nations have been trained, advised, and supported by this initiative. Seven new Conducting Fellows have been chosen for 2021.

Normally, the residency includes considerable time rehearsing with both singers and The Dallas Opera Orchestra, culminating in the much-anticipated Showcase Concert. Because COVID-19 restrictions make this impossible for the 2021 program, Fellows will be invited back to Dallas to participate in the 2022 residency.

The 2021 schedule of masterclasses and presentations, still in the planning stage, will take place virtually as participants are unable to travel to Dallas because of the pandemic. While many of the sessions will be closed to all but Hart Fellows, some will be made available to a worldwide audience via various digital platforms.

“An international audience for the Hart Institute gives this program the potential for incredible reach, sustainability, and growth,” explained Ian Derrer, The Dallas Opera’s Kern Wildenthal general director and CEO.

“Musical training and masterclasses at the highest international level, as well as mentorship in how to navigate the industry, including making the connections vital to successful careers, are all part of the curriculum,” Derrer said. “The goal is to help women conductors advance their careers and find employment in their chosen field.”

The seven women selected as Conducting Fellows for the 2021 Dallas Opera Hart Institute are:

  • Yeo Ryeong Ahn (South Korea)
  • Christine Brandes (USA)
  • Michelle Di Russo (Argentina)
  • Barbara Dragan (Poland)
  • Chelsea Gallo (USA)
  • Elinor Rufeizen (Israel)
  • Susannah Wapshott (UK)

Each year, the program also accepts a limited number of Americans seeking careers in arts management at a senior administrative level. The administrators selected as 2021 Hart Institute Fellows are Jessica Gonzalez, Leah Johns, Yvette Loynaz, and Megan Thompson.

“Highly accomplished women from all over the world apply for Fellowships,” says TDO Director of Artistic Administration David Lomeli, who is instrumental in administering the program and selecting participants. “It’s very, very exciting to see, and I think the professional level of those chosen for the institute class of 2021 is among the highest we’ve ever had.”

“Our industry now actively searches out women conductors who have completed the Hart Institute residency,” Lomeli explained, “with alumnae receiving guest-conducting engagements at major companies around the world, including The Dallas Opera, Welsh National Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Hawaii Opera Theater, Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, Deutsches Symfonie-Orchester Berlin, and more.”

The 2021 Hart Institute faculty includes renowned Italian conductor Carlo Montanaro, who will serve as a Master Teacher, along with French-American conductor Elizabeth Askren, a 2016 Hart Institute alumna, who will act as both Master Teacher and Faculty Liaison.

Other esteemed faculty members for the virtual workshops and sessions next spring include Ian Derrer; TDO’s Mrs. Eugene McDermott Music Director Emmanuel Villaume; the Martha R. and Preston A. Peak Principal Guest Conductor Nicole Paiement; Joel Ethan Fried, artistic director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Serge Dorny, the incoming head of the Bavarian State Opera; Hart Institute alumna Lidiya Yankovskaya, music director of Chicago Opera Theater; Ana De Archuleta, the president and CEO of ADA Artist Management; and Mariana Fonseca Medina, managing director of digital customer experience at American Airlines.

This season’s 2020/2021 Hart Institute for Women Conductors Showcase Concert, featuring alumnae conductors from 2020 and earlier is scheduled to take place on Friday, February 19, 2021, pending COVID-19 restrictions.

For additional information about The Dallas Opera Hart Institute for Women Conductors, visit

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