The Australian conductor Brad Cohen is acclaimed for his direction of Italian and French opera, and is in demand by opera houses worldwide for his conducting of Verdi, Puccini andthe bel canto repertoire. His artistic activities go far beyond this special interest - from making contemporary opera for television in collaboration with the composer Jonathan Dove, to an active and innovative symphonic conducting career. In addition, he has toured the chamber works of Frank Zappa and has an active role as an editor and publisher of Urtext operatic editions. Brad also has a burgeoning media career, and was most recently seen on UK television as a mentor on the highly successful BBC2 series Maestro. Brad returns to Australia in 2009, to conduct for Opera Australia and release his debut recording for Deutsche Grammophon with Emma Matthews.
Brad Cohen began to learn the violin at the age of four,and subsequently studied piano, organ, harpsichord, percussion and voice. He was boy soloist at St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, and at the age of fourteen was appointed Organ Scholar there. At fifteen he won an organ scholarship to the UK, to complete his schooling at the King's School Canterbury. While there, he sang the role of Curly in Oklahoma!, improvised stage music for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and was awarded music and academic scholarships. In 1984 Brad was elected Paddy Organ Scholar at St John's College Oxford where, in addition to studying music, he began to form and conduct orchestras.
On leaving Oxford with first class honours, Brad studied with Sergiu Celibidache and Leonard Bernstein in Germany as an exchange scholar in Munich, and on his return to the UK in 1989 he was appointed Opera Conducting Scholar at the Royal College of Music.
In 1990 he became Junior Fellow at the RNCM and made his professional debut at the 1992 Almeida Festival. In 1994 he was awarded first prize in the Leeds Conductors’ Competition. His orchestral engagements include the London Philharmonic(Barbican), Royal Philharmonic (Royal Albert Hall and Opera Holland Park), the Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, Het Gelders Orkest, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (Bath Festival), Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Edinburgh International Festival), City of London Sinfonia, and the Orchestra of St. John’s Smith Square.
“At last count, my repertoire includes eighty operas, from Cavalli to Adès”, comments Brad. “Working with opera orchestras around the world is a constant reminder of the variety of performance traditions, and the fresh perspective each of these styles can give to our interpretations”.
Brad has conducted From the House of the Dead and Carmen for English National Opera, Carmen, The Merry Widow, Roméo et Juliettte, L’elisir d’amore and La Cenerentola for Opera Australia, The Magic Flute, The Pearl Fishers and The Reluctant King for Opera North, and Rigoletto and Figaro for English Touring Opera. For Almeida Opera he conducted many premieres between 1992 and 1998, including the world premiere of Thomas Adès’ Powder her Face (also performed at Cheltenham Festival,
Bath and Oxford) and in 1998 Guo Wenjing’s WolfcubVillageand Night Banquet (also Hong Kong Festival). Other operatic work includes Les vêpres siciliennes, Poliuto, Il pirata, I Lombardi, Anna Bolena, Andrea Chénier, Beatrice di Tenda and Macbeth for Chelsea Opera Group, Macbeth for Opera New Zealand, Die Fledermaus for Opera Queensland, Così fan tutte for Opera Theatre Company Dublin, Nabucco, Madama Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, Pearl Fishers, Norma, La Sonnambula, Fedora and Nabucco for Opera Holland Park, La Traviata for Luzern, Jonathan Dove’s Tobias and the Angel for CBTO, The Turn of the Screw for Porto 2001, Armida, Tancredi, Le Comte Ory, Maometto secondo and Mosca’s L’italiana in Algeri for the Rossini in Wildbad Festival, Cavalleria rusticana & I Pagliacci in the Royal Albert Hall, Luisa Miller and Manon for the Nederlands Nationale Reisopera, and Lucia di Lammermoor for
Brad has a strong involvement in the performance of new music. His diverse activities in this field include filming modern opera for television, touring the ensemble pieces of Frank Zappa, and commissioning music for the opening of the Millennium Dome. “Taking Zappa’s music around the UK with the Composer’s Ensemble was fantastically invigorating”, says Brad. “We re-arranged Alien Orifice for the tour, and the audiences responded so freely and enthusiastically to his music - shouted
interjections and cheers were a common feature of the concerts. It was a refreshing break from ‘classical’ concert formality”. In 2002 Brad was Musical Director of Jonathan Dove’s television opera When She Died: Death of a Princess, commissioned from Tiger Aspect for Channel Four and first shown in August 2002. In 2006 the same team created the television opera Man on the Moon for Channel Four. Brad also led the Australian premiere of Jonathan Dove’s opera Flight at the 2006 Adelaide Festival.
Recent and current activities include a much-acclaimed Swedish opera debut, conducting Peter Konwitschny’s production La Bohème at the Karlstad Opera, Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi with Opera Australia in spring 2009. Autumn 2009 brings Brad’s return to the Swedish opera scene; as conductor of Rossini’s La Cenerentola for Malmö Opera.