Judith Yan is a Canadian conductor, born in Hong Kong. Equally adept at conducting opera, ballet, and symphony, her career has taken her internationally, conducting for major companies in Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and the United States. She is currently the Artistic Director of Guelph Symphony Orchestra and Music Director and Principal Conductor of Opera on the Avalon. She has held Staff Conductor positions at the San Francisco Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, and the National Ballet of Canada.
The 2013/14 season includes performances with GSO of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Holst’s The Planets, and Strauss’s Four Last Songs with soprano Cheryl Hickman, a Manitoba Chamber Orchestra debut, performances with Opera on the Avalon, and a new production of Don Quixote with Hong Kong Ballet.
Her professional career started in Canada at the Canadian Opera Company, where she served as the Conductor-in-Residence, a position created for her by then General Director, the late Richard Bradshaw. For the Canadian Opera Company, she conducted in the Altamira-sponsored outdoor concerts, a workshop production of Alexina Louie’s The Scarlet Princess, and Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. Critic Peter Dyson, in his review for UK’s Opera Magazine wrote: “The chamber orchestra, under Judith Yan’s energetic conducting, skillfully projected the score’s rhythmic variety…its striking harmonic shifts, always allied to and furthering the action on stage.” While at the COC, she also served as Rehearsal and Cover Conductor for productions of Xerses, Don Giovanni, Idomeneo, Il barbiere di Sivilglia, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Die verkaufte Braut, and Pel!éas et Mélisande. During her tenure with the Canadian Opera Company, she collaborated with members of Stratford Festival, Ballet Jorgen and the Toronto Symphony on a program of Prokofiev, Bernstein and Gounod in the Romeo and Juliet MODD project.
Her career continued in the United States, where she was appointed Staff Conductor of the San Francisco Opera. While with the San Francisco Opera she conducted the 2005 Merola production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, garnering critical acclaim. Critic Joshua Kosman, in his review for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote: “the evening’s principal hero was conductor Judith Yan, who led this daunting score with astonishing precision and fluency. She never downplayed or regularized the score’s sharp edges, but she made them sound natural and even commonsensical, like poetry recited in the speaker’s own language.” The performances were later included in the San Francisco Chronicle’s list of Top Ten Classical Performances of 2005. Along with The Rake’s Progress, she conducted the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize winning composer Lewis Spratlin’s Earthrise, an opera commissioned by the San Francisco Opera, and made her company debut in 2002 with Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera. As a member of the San Francisco Opera music staff, she served as the cover and rehearsal conductor for productions of La Damnation de Faust, Otello, Falstaff, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Hänsel und Gretel, Samson et Dalila and Giulio Cesare, and assisted on productions of St. Francois d’Assise, Jenufa, Alcina and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
While in San Francisco, Judith met acclaimed American composer Jake Heggie, which led to her participation in the Houston Grand Opera’s workshop of The End of the Affair. She also conducted San Francisco Conservatory‘s 2006 production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro in a performance described as in San Francisco Classical voice as “both passionate and precise, (creating) wonders from the Conservatory orchestra, with long passages of exceptional playing.”
As a conductor of ballet, her 2006 debut with the National Ballet of Canada led to the subsequent invitation to conduct over 90 performances for the company at the Four Season Centre, working with the world’s leading choreographers and ballet masters of today. For the National Ballet of Canada, she has conducted Sir Peter Wright’s Giselle (Adam), John Neumeier’s The Seagull (Shostakovich), John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew (Stolze) and Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev), Balanchine’s Symphony in C (Bizet) and Don Quixote (Nabokov), James Kudelka’s Cinderella (Prokofiev), The Italian Straw Hat (Torke) and The Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky), Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow (Lehar), Jerome Robbin’s Glass Pieces (Glass) and West Side Story (Bernstein), Jirí Kylián’s Soldier’s Mass (Martinů), Harald Lander’s Etudes (Riisager/Czerny), and the world premiere of Peter Quanz’s Symphony in Colour (Lubchenko).
In Europe, she made her German conducting debut in 2005 with productions of Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Mozart’s Idomeneo at Ulmer Oper. In 2007 she made her Italian debut in Sulmona, Italy with COSI Festival’s Le Nozze di Figaro. She returned to Italy in 2008 to conduct La Boheme and an opera gala concert.
2009/2010 season marked Judith’s debut with Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, Washington and her first year as Music Director and Principal Conductor for Opera on the Avalon. Also in this season were performances with the National Ballet of Canada, which included the world premiere of Peter Quanz’s In Colour (Lubchenko), John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev), Sir Peter Wright’s Giselle, and James Kuldelka’s The Nutcracker, a program of Prokofiev with Guelph Symphony Orchestra, and a new production of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty with Hong Kong Ballet.
2011/2012 season included a New Zealand debut with Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, performances with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, plus Mozart’s Requiem with Opera on the Avalon, a debut with Stratford Symphony Orchestra, a return to Hong Kong Ballet for a a production of Tchaikovksy’s Swan Lake, and her first season as the Artistic Director of Guelph Symphony Orchestra.
2012/2013 season included concerts with Guelph Symphony Orchestra, Lehar’s Die Lustige Witwe with University of Western Ontario, a return to Stratford Symphony with the music of Mozart, a new production and recording of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker for the Hong Kong Ballet, and a Gala Concert and La Traviata with Opera on the Avalon.