During a thirty five-year professional career as an opera conductor, Hal France has led organizations and performed with opera companies and symphony orchestras around the United States. While conducting throughout the United States and abroad his activities include speaking and advocating for arts education. He has completed tenures as Executive Director of KANEKO (2008–2012), Artistic Director of Opera Omaha (1995–2005), and Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic (1999-2006). He served as an Adjunct Professor at the UNO School of Music from 2007-2016.
Mr. France has collaborated with many of this country’s opera companies. In 1981, he made his professional debut at Washington’s Kennedy Center. He served the Houston Grand Opera first as Associate Conductor and later as Resident Conductor over a four-year span. He has conducted performances for the New York City Opera, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Santa Fe Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Chautauqua Opera, Minnesota Opera, Cleveland Opera, Opera Carolina, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Tulsa Opera, Portland Opera, Kentucky Opera, and Orlando Opera.
He has guest conducted the Royal Philharmonic, the National Symphony, the New Jersey Symphony, the Richmond Symphony and the Jacksonville Symphony. In 1992, he made his European opera debut with the Royal Opera of Stockholm with a production of Maria Stuarda.
Hal France has been involved in numerous community collaborations that include:
- BlueBarn Music Festival
He served as the first Executive Director of KANEKO a non-profit organization founded by the artist Jun Kaneko and his wife Ree in Omaha, Nebraska. During a four-year tenure he was integrally involved in every aspect of the organization’s creativity based programming and infrastructure. He promoted and helped design an extensive number of community partnerships, the Great Minds Lecture series, performances, exhibitions, workshops and educational outreach programs that brought people into a forum of ideas and collaboration.
Mr. France served as Music Director of the Mobile Opera and Lake George Opera Festival and as Music Director of Opera Omaha before assuming the position of Artistic Director. He has been on the music staffs of the Glyndebourne Festival, Aspen Festival and the Netherlands Opera. He has degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and a fellowship from the Juilliard Opera Center. Recently he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an Admiralty in the Nebraska Navy from the Governor of the state.
Recent Activity (Selected Highlights)- Pianist, Vespers Music: Recital Performance with Taylor Stayton.
- Pianist and Music Director, Performance of students from Speed Dating with Sound Health, Buffett Cancer Center, UNMC.
- Musician and Speaker, Food for the Soul Series, Omaha Conservatory of Music
- Guest Conductor/Instructor Hansel and Gretel opera performances, Depaul University.
- Music Director, Indecent, BLUEBARN Theatre.
- Pianist, International Vocal Health Day Performances, Buffett Cancer Center, UNMC.
- Performer, Chamber Music, Crossroad Music Festival
== From the website of the University of Nebraska Omaha
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Hal France is a sought after guest conductor of opera throughout the U.S.A. He has conducted nine productions for the Houston Grand Opera, eight productions for Central City Opera (Show Boat, La Fanciulla del West, L’Italiana in Algeri, Gloriana, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Gian Carlo Menotti's The Saint of Bleeker Street, Candide, and Carlisle Floyd's Susannah), four productions for Opera Theater of St. Louis (including the world premiere of Stephen Oliver's Beauty and the Beast), five productions for Kentucky Opera, three productions each for the New York City Opera (Oliver Knussen's Where the Wild Things Are, The Ballad of Baby Doe, and the world premiere of Ezra Laderman's Marilyn) and Orlando Opera (Macbeth, The Merry Widow and Il Barbiere di Siviglia), and two productions each for Cleveland Opera (Tosca and Rigoletto), Madison Opera (La Boheme and The Magic Flute), Calgary Opera (Tosca and The Ballad of Baby Doe), and Utah Opera (Lucia di Lammermoor and Romeo et Juliette).
Mr. France has served as Artistic Director of Opera Omaha, as Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic, as Resident and Associate Conductor for the Houston Grand Opera, Music Director of the Mobile Opera, Lake George Opera Festival, and as Music Director of Opera Omaha before assuming the position of Artistic Director. He was also Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic. Early in his career, he served on the music staffs of the Glyndebourne Festival, Aspen Festival, and the Netherlands Opera. He began his professional career as assistant to John DeMain at the Houston Grand Opera.
Elsewhere, he has conducted productions for Seattle Opera and Florida Grand Opera (Floyd's The Passion of Jonathan Wade), Minnesota Opera (Madama Butterfly), Opera Company of Philadelphia (The Rake’s Progress), Santa Fe Opera (Ingvar Lidholm's A Dream Play - world premiere), Portland Opera (Tosca), Chautauqua Opera, Glimmerglass Opera (Iolanthe), Tulsa Opera (Don Pasquale), Opera Carolina, Chicago Opera Theater, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Hawaii Opera Theater,, Arkansas Opera Theater, Mobile Opera, the Manhattan School of Music (Street Scene), and Ricky Ian Gordon's The Grapes of Wrath. In Europe, he has conducted Maria Stuarda with the Royal Opera in Stockholm.
Recent engagements include productions of Bluebeard’s Castle and Falstaff for Opera Omaha, Macbeth for Chautauqua Opera, Rigoletto, Carmina Burana and I Pagliacci and The Magic Flute for Hawaii Opera, Man of La Mancha for Utah Opera, Mark Adamo's Little Women for Northwestern University, Show Boat plus a double-bill of works by David Lang for Portland Opera, and The Pirates of Penzance for Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
On the concert stage, he has conducted the Richmond Symphony, Orlando Philharmonic, Nebraska Festival Orchestra and Jacksonville Symphony in subscription concerts, and the Chautauqua Festival Orchestra, Juilliard Symphony, and St. Louis Symphony in special galas
== From the website of Pinnacle Arts Management (with additions)
== Names which are links in this box and below refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website. BD
Walter Felsenstein (30 May 1901 – 8 October 1975) was an Austrian
theater and opera director. He was one of the most important exponents
of textual accuracy, and gave productions in which dramatic and musical
values were exquisitely researched and balanced. In 1947 he created
the Komische Oper in East Berlin, where he worked as director until his
Preparations for each new production could last two months or longer. If singers meticulously coached and trained in their parts fell ill, performances were simply canceled. Since the glamorous superstars of the day could never spare the time Felsenstein required, he worked with his own hand-picked troupe of devoted singers, most from Eastern Europe and virtually unknown in the West. Everything was sung in German, usually in his own translations. Whoever wanted to experience this singular operatic mix had to make the pilgrimage to East Berlin, a trip that became even dicier after the wall went up.
Together with the Komische Oper troupe he visited the USSR a few times. In Moscow it was stated that his way of the opera staging was similar to the principles of Konstantin Stanislavsky. His most famous students were Götz Friedrich and Harry Kupfer, both of whom went on to have important careers developing Felsenstein's work.
© 1989 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Chicago on March 24, 1989. Portions were broadcast on WNIB four days later. This transcription was made in 2023, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here. To read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well as a few other interesting observations, click here.
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Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.