Russian-American conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya is a fiercely committed advocate for Russian masterpieces, operatic rarities, and contemporary works on the leading edge of classical music. As Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater, she is the only woman to hold that title in a multimillion-dollar opera company in the United States.
In the 2019/20 season, Ms. Yankovskaya leads the world premiere of Dan Shore’s Freedom Ride and the Chicago premieres of Joby Talbot’s Everest, Rachmaninoff’s Aleko, and David T. Little’s Soldier Songs at Chicago Opera Theater. She conducts Ricky Ian Gordon’s Ellen West at New York’s critically acclaimed Prototype Festival, and makes house debuts leading Daron Hagen’s Shining Brow at Arizona Opera and the world premiere of Paola Prestini’s Edward Tulane at Minnesota Opera. In standard repertoire, she leads performances of Stravinsky’s The Firebird at Illinois Philharmonic, Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony in C minor at Chicago Philharmonic, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni in her Glimmerglass Festival debut.
Ms. Yankovskaya is Founder and Artistic Director of the Refugee Orchestra Project, which proclaims the cultural and societal relevance of refugees through music, and has brought that message to hundreds of thousands of listeners around the world. In addition to a National Sawdust residency in Brooklyn, ROP has performed in Boston, Washington, D.C., and the United Nations, and will make its UK debut in London in an upcoming season. She has also served as Artistic Director of the Boston New Music Festival and Juventas New Music Ensemble, where she led operatic experiments with puppetry, circus acts, and robotic instruments, as well as premieres by more than two dozen composers. Under her artistic leadership, Juventas was the recipient of multiple NEA grants and National Opera Association Awards.
As Music Director of Harvard’s Lowell House Opera, Ms. Yankovskaya conducted sold-out performances of repertoire rarely heard in Boston, including Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the U.S. Russian-language premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden. Her commitment to exploring the breadth of symphonic and operatic repertoire has also been demonstrated in performances of Rachmaninoff’s Aleko and the American premieres of Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei, Rubinshteyn’s The Demon, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Kashchej The Immortal and Symphony No. 1.
An alumna of the Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors and Marin Alsop’s Taki Concordia Fellowship, Ms. Yankovskaya has also served as assistant conductor to Lorin Maazel, chorus master of Boston Symphony Orchestra, and conductor of Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. She has been featured in the League of American Orchestras Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview and Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music, and assisted Vladimir Jurowski via a London Philharmonic fellowship.
Ms. Yankovskaya holds a B.A. in Music and Philosophy from Vassar College, with a focus on piano, voice, and conducting, and earned an M.M. in Conducting from Boston University. Her conducting teachers and mentors have included Lorin Maazel, Marin Alsop, Kenneth Kiesler, Ann Howard Jones, David Hoose, Joshua Jacobson, Eduardo Navega, and Christine Howlett.
Ms. Yankovskaya’s belief in the importance of mentorship has fueled the establishment of Chicago Opera Theater’s Vanguard Initiative, a three-pronged investment in new opera that includes a two-year residency for emerging opera composers. Committed to developing the next generation of artistic leaders, she also serves on the Advisory Board of Turn The Spotlight, a foundation dedicated to identifying, nurturing, and empowering leaders – and in turn, to illuminating the path to a more equitable future in the arts.
Recipient of a 2018 Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award, Ms. Yankovskaya has been a featured speaker at the League of American Orchestras and Opera America conferences, and served as U.S. Representative to the 2018 World Opera Forum in Madrid.