SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mary Birnbaum, a decorated opera director, takes the reins of Opera Saratoga ahead of the 2023 summer festival season.
Opera Saratoga’s board of directors announced Mary Birnbaum as its new general and artistic director on Thursday, Feb. 9. She succeeds former General and Artistic Director Lawrence Edelson, whose eight-year tenure concluded at the end of the 2022 season. Birnbaum is the tenth general director in Opera Saratoga’s celebrated history. Board President Steve Rosenblum shared, “We are incredibly excited and honored to have Mary Birnbaum join Opera Saratoga. She was selected after an extensive nationwide search, in which we interviewed many highly qualified candidates. Mary’s level of enthusiasm and love of opera are infectious and I am certain she will be an inspirational leader for the company as well as an integral part of the Saratoga Springs community.”
Birnbaum is a stage director, educator, and artistic leader, whose impressive international career has garnered great attention and positioned her well to lead Opera Saratoga, an organization which has been an integral part in the local arts scene for over 60 years. In addition to her appointment at Opera Saratoga, Birnbaum is on faculty at The Juilliard School where she teaches and coaches acting for singers as the Dramatic Advisor to the Masters of Music and Graduate Diploma Program at the Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts. She was Juilliard’s inaugural directing fellow in Vocal Arts, and she will continue her role as a faculty member and Dramatic Advisor to graduate-level singers.
Birnbaum, whose stage direction of opera and theatre New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini called “viscerally overwhelming” (Rape of Lucretia at Juilliard) and “genuinely insightful…vibrant” (The Classical Style at Carnegie Hall), has worked both internationally, from Taiwan (Otello) to Central America (L’elisir d’amore and La bohème at the National Theatre of Costa Rica and Querido Arte in Guatemala), Australia and Israel, and across the U.S. (Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Seattle Opera, Opera Columbus, Virginia Arts Festival (Kept), Ojai Festival, and Boston Baroque.
One of the few women to open the Santa Fe Opera season with her own production, Birnbaum has received recognition for her work and acclaimed merit in the field; she was nominated for “Best Newcomer” at the 2015 International OperaAwards, and selected as first recipient of the James S. Marcus Directing Fellowship at Juilliard. In addition to her accolades as stage director, Ms. Birnbaum has also taught at the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann program, Bard, and Harvard. A graduate of Harvard College, she also trained professionally in physical theater at L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris.
“I am thrilled to accept the position of General and Artistic Director of Opera Saratoga,” says Birnbaum, “and look forward to collaborating with the talented staff and superior board of directors to bring exceptional music theater to Saratoga Springs and the surrounding communities. The company has been a leader in our field under the direction of the board and Larry Edelson and I will be proud to continue the company’s tradition of producing new operatic works as well as traditional works from the canon of opera and music theater. Part of the allure of working with Opera Saratoga was the richness of the artistic and intellectual community in the area and I can’t wait to find ways to partner with other local organizations.”
In her role as general and artistic director, Birnbaum will be responsible for producing the annual opera festival and overseeing Opera Saratoga staff in all elements of programming, community engagement, fundraising, and artist development; while also directing or working with guest directors, conductors, and designers. Ms. Birnbaum is a welcome addition to the Opera Saratoga leadership team, and will propel the organization forward in high artistic merit, as the company continues to collaborate with creative partners and serve audiences throughout the greater Capital Region. Chairman of the Board, Robert Miller shares that “Mary’s impressive background in the arts and her commitment to excellence, collaboration, and community will serve Opera Saratoga well. Her affiliation within NYC and at Juilliard will bolster Opera Saratoga’s already strong young artists’ program. We could not be more pleased that Mary is joining us.”
Upstate New York audiences will have an opportunity to meet Mary this summer, during the 2023 festival season. Her introduction to the Saratoga Springs public will happen at Opera Saratoga’s Annual Gala, on Thursday, June 8, 2023 at the Saratoga National Golf Club. More information can be found at https://www.operasaratoga.org/opera-gala-2023