May 17, 2010

NEC Announces Appointment of Stephen Lord as Artistic Director of Opera Studies, Luretta Bybee as Executive Director and Chair

Lord, Rated Among “Top 25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera,” Returns to Boston Where He was Formerly Music Director of Boston Lyric Opera

Mezzo-soprano Bybee Assumes New, Expanded Duties on Faculty

In a major initiative to enhance opera and vocal studies at New England Conservatory, President Tony Woodcock has announced new leadership to guide both undergraduate and graduate opera programs. Conductor Stephen Lord, whom Opera News has identified as among the “25 most powerful names in U.S. opera,” will become Artistic Director of Opera Studies. Former music director of Boston Lyric Opera, current music director of Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and a much-in-demand guest conductor at companies like English National Opera, San Francisco Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, Lord will oversee all aspects of the opera training program and, beginning in 2011-12, conduct one mainstage production a year. (In photo: Stephen Lord at NEC masterclass.) 

Mezzo-soprano Luretta Bybee, a faculty member since 2004, will become Executive Director and Chair of Opera Studies. She will work closely with Lord to implement a new vision for the Opera Department, and, in collaboration with President Woodcock and Dean of the College Tom Novak, outline a multi-year strategy.  The reorganization takes effect in September.

Appointment of new leaders is the next step in NEC’s plan to take opera studies to new heights of eminence. Just as the Conservatory has in recent years focused on burnishing its strings, chamber music, and orchestral studies, so the opera reorganization is intended to enhance voice training, opera preparation, and performance opportunities. Previous steps included the creation in 2008 of a new partnership with Opera Boston through which selected opera students are given a variety of apprentice opportunities. This year, NEC introduced its prestigious and highly selective Artist Diploma in Opera program, a further development with Opera Boston. The first A.D. candidate, baritone DongWon Kim, sang the role of Orbrazzano in the company’s production of Rossini’s Tancredi as well as the title role in NEC’s production of Don Giovanni. Future plans call for establishing more partnerships with local companies, increasing scholarship support, providing more performance opportunities, and construction of new performing spaces as part of NEC’s Campus Master Plan.

Bybee as CarmenBybee as CarmenHaving Lord and Bybee in place “ensures that we will get the vision right,” said President Woodcock.  “Stephen Lord is not only a gifted conductor and coach with a worldwide reputation but he is also a born teacher, a musician who loves working with young people and helping them flourish as singers and singing actors. What’s more, he knows everyone in the field and can help us attract not only the finest faculty and opera directors but also the most gifted students. Luretta Bybee brings to her new position unbeatable experience both as an NEC teacher and as an active performing artist at the highest level. She understands deeply what students need to learn if they are to succeed as professional musicians.” 

Lord, who is in St. Louis supervising preparations for the 2010 Opera Theatre season and conducting A Little Night Music, said: “Ever since I was a young person, I remember going to NEC and Jordan Hall and hearing great performances including John Moriarty playing for the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. I was always interested in what was going on at NEC and it was always an aspiration to play in Jordan Hall, so I’m honored and flattered to be considered to enter into this pantheon.”

When asked how he envisioned the opera program, he promised intensive training for professional careers. There will be “more individual attention, more concentrated tutorial, more one-on-one work in the vocal studio.” Because students would come to coaches “better prepared vocally,” coaching would be more focused on “musical style and preparation of individual pieces and roles.”  Lord also plans to do operas in concert in addition to the staged productions, so singers have more opportunity to perform and “orchestral musicians get used to playing opera—a skill many of them will need in the professional world.

“We’re going to try to do what doesn’t happen at other music schools,” he concluded.

The new NEC opera initiative has been made possible through the generous support of several major donors at NEC.


Conductor Stephen Lord was rated one of the "25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera" by Opera News, alongside James Conlon and James Levine of the Los Angeles and Metropolitan Opera companies.

Currently the music director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and continually praised for conducting both traditional and contemporary operatic works, Lord has also visited or had primary affiliations with many other opera companies in the U.S. and overseas. He was music director of Boston Lyric Opera for 16 seasons.

During his 2009–2010 season, Lord made three major debuts, the first two with English National Opera and San Francisco Opera conducting Rigoletto, and the third with Lyric Opera of Chicago conducting Tosca (which he also conducts for Opera Colorado). The summer of 2010 sees him at the Santa Fe Opera conducting Les contes d'Hoffmann. He returns to English National Opera in September 2010 for La Bohème, directed by Jonathan Miller, and in 2012–2013, he will be back on the podium at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

In 2008–2009, Lord conducted productions of La Traviata with Portland Opera, Madama Butterfly for Opera Colorado, Macbeth with Opéra de Montréal, and L'Elisir d'amore with Michigan Opera Theatre. In summer of 2009 he conducted Salome for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and returned to Wolf Trap Opera to conduct La Bohème with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Stephen Lord made his New York City Opera debut in 2004 conducting La Rondine and his Metropolitan Opera debut conducting a nationally broadcast concert of National Council winners. Other career highlights as guest conductor include five appearances at Wolf Trap Opera with the National Symphony Orchestra and with other North American companies such as the Canadian Opera (where he returns in 2013 for Lucia di Lammermoor), Opera Colorado, Michigan Opera Theatre, Florentine Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, and Minnesota Opera.

The opera world also recalls Lord's past work as music director of the Banff Festival Opera and Boston Lyric Opera. Boston audiences were treated to a broad spectrum of the opera canon, including premieres of critical editions, revivals of neglected operas, and a first look at Rachel Portman's setting of The Little Prince in a production that prominently featured NEC-trained young singers.

Outside of traditional opera subscription seasons, Lord has been a guest with the Boston Pops and first appeared in San Francisco leading the Merola Grand Finale Concert for the opera company, which he has repeated alongside other concert activities with the company.

Before making the transition to conductor, Lord had a highly successful career as accompanist and coach of opera, counting among his clients such singers as Renata Scotto, Neil Shicoff, Rockwell Blake, Evelyn Lear, and Thomas Stewart.

In addition to the masterclasses at NEC that preceded his appointment to the faculty, Lord has led masterclasses at numerous educational and performing institutions such as Yale, University of Toronto, University of Colorado, L'Opéra de Montréal, and McGill University. A frequent adjudicator, he has regularly judged for the Metropolitan Opera and the Richard Tucker Foundation, on whose advisory board he sits.

Bybee as AmandaBybee (center) as Amanda in "Amelia"A native of Midland, Texas, Luretta Bybee has sung with numerous opera companies and orchestras in the United States and abroad. She is particularly known for her Carmen, having sung the Bizet heroine with the New York City and Seattle opera companies, among numerous others, and in the world tour of Peter Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen. Of her New York City Opera performances, Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times wrote: “Bybee brings a dusky-colored, vibrant voice to the role. This was a strongly sung and engaging portrayal.”

Other significant roles include the title roles in Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri, Saint-Saëns's Samson et Dalila, Rossini's Bianca e Falliero, and Britten's Rape of Lucretia. She has also sung Ulrica in Verdi's Un Ballo in maschera, Dame Quickly in Verdi's Falstaff, Fricka in Wagner's Das Rheingold, Paula in Catan's Florencia en el Amazonas, and Klytemnaestra in Elektra and Herodias in Salome, both by Richard Strauss.

Bybee’s concert work has included the world premiere of the reduced orchestral version of Leonard Bernstein’s Songfest at the 92nd Street Y, which she reprised with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra and Seiji Ozawa on the Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert at Tanglewood. She has sung Verdi's Requiem and Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall and can be heard on the recording of Aaron Copland’s In the Beginning with Gloria dei Cantores.

Bybee has just created the role of Amanda in Daron Hagen's world premiere of Amelia at the Seattle Opera, and will debut the role of Bernadetta in John Musto's world premiere of The Inspector (aka An Inspector from Rome) next season at Wolf Trap Opera. More about this at Wolf Trap's blog.

For further information, check the NEC Website.


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 900 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115