Maestro returns to BBC Two with celebration of opera

Maestro At The Opera is a unique chance to celebrate and bring to a BBC Two audience some of the most influential figures in opera today along with unmasking the process of an opera at a world class institution."Jan Younghusband, BBC Commissioning Editor
Date: 29.02.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.15
Category: BBC Two
BBC Two has announced the return of the hugely successful series Maestro, with a three-part series, Maestro At The Opera.

The new series is a creative collaboration between the BBC and the Royal Opera House and will see four well-known personalities facing possibly the greatest challenge in their careers and in classical music as they pick up the baton and become apprentice conductors.

The brave trainees will compete to conduct a complete Act of a legendary opera performed on the hallowed main stage of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with a cast of exciting international young artists and the ROH’s world class orchestra and chorus.

The trainee conductors, each a leading light in their own field, were revealed today as; Josie Lawrence, Craig Revel Horwood, Professor Marcus du Sautoy and Trevor Nelson.

Each apprentice conductor will have a mentor; a highly experienced professional opera conductor, responsible for teaching and guiding them through the world of opera with all its pitfalls and high drama on and off stage! They’ll learn about working with orchestras, soloists, choruses and all the complexities of how you stage an opera.

In programme one, they’ll start with the basic building block – how to conduct an aria.

The judges to impress are some of the world’s most respected operatic figures: conductor Sir Mark Elder, soprano Danielle de Niese and orchestral musician Dominic Seldis. And, as with the original Maestro, it is the orchestra itself which will have the final say.

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House will decide which three students make it through to programme two, in which the competitors will have to conduct an operatic scene, specially staged for Maestro. Two people will go on to programme three with the orchestra deciding which student will go on to face the challenge of conducting an entire act.

The three 60-minute films will take viewers beyond the velvet rope, giving unprecedented access to one of the world’s greatest opera houses. The series will explore how an opera is actually put together and the role of the conductor. We’ll meet the ROH team from coaches, crew and technicians to the Music Director, Antonio Pappano and Director of Opera, Kasper Holten.

The series features interviews and anecdotes from a raft of renowned opera professionals including Lesley Garrett, Alfie Boe and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, each of whom will give a personal insight into the passion, fun, fear, glamour and glory of the world of professional Opera.

Controller of BBC Two, Janice Hadlow, said: “Having pipped Goldie to the conductor’s podium in series one, it’s time for Sue Perkins to pass her champion’s baton to a brand new set of personalities who face a very different challenge. I look forward to seeing whether their natural musical ability will be enough to help them master the skills needed in the new series, which will take viewers right to the heart of one of the world’s greatest opera institutions.”

Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, said: “It’s a wonderful way of bringing opera to BBC audiences. It’s going to be a fascinating journey watching the Maestros meet the challenges of opera in the thick of a working theatre and I wish each of them all the best!”

BBC Commissioning Editor for Music Television, Jan Younghusband, added: “Maestro At The Opera is a unique chance to celebrate and bring to a BBC Two audience some of the most influential figures in opera today along with unmasking the process of an opera at a world class institution.

"Through our new creative partnership with the Royal Opera House, our trainee conductors will gain access to experts in their field ranging from Kasper Holten to familiar friend Antonio Pappano and of course our judges and mentors.

"To be able to open up that world to our audience alongside Josie, Craig, Marcus and Trevor is a great privilege. This series promises to be both illuminating and entertaining and we wish all our apprentice conductors the very best of luck!”

Director of The Royal Opera, Kasper Holten, added: “Opera is the most dramatic and powerful of all the art forms bringing together words, music, design and drama – it’s the greatest theatrical experience. And standing at the helm on the podium in the orchestra pit is the conductor, the Maestro. This challenge will probably be the most difficult any of the contestants will ever face in their professional lives, but I really hope it will be one of the most fulfilling experiences they ever have.”

Maestro at the Opera is produced by Peter Maniura, and is a BBC in-house Classical Music Production, commissioned by BBC Commissioning Editor of Music, Jan Younghusband, for and on behalf of BBC Two Controller Janice Hadlow.

For further information, interviews and features opportunities please contact Louise Plank on 020 8995 3936 or

Notes to Editors

  • The BBC aims to provide the broadest range and depth of music and arts programmes on television.
  • Performance is an important part of what we show, but we don’t just capture the arts as they happen. The BBC aims to provide context through original, fresh discussion and perspectives.
  • The BBC creates non-commercial partnerships with the arts sector that go beyond broadcast, from sharing expertise to widening public engagement in UK arts from the Royal Opera House to The Southbank Centre and many more.
  • A new strategic partnership between the Royal Opera House and the BBC was announced in April 2011. Maestro at the Opera is an example of the new partnership in practise; with both organisations coming together to co-produce new commissions especially for television as well as the regular commitment to showcasing some of the world's finest opera and ballet.

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