Kent Nagano

Kent Nagano

Kent George Nagano (born November 22, 1951) is an American conductor and opera administrator. He has been the music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra since 2006 and is general music director of the Hamburg State Opera since 2015 through 2020.[1][2]

Early life and education

Nagano was born in Berkeley, California, while his parents were in graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a Sansei, which means that he is a third generation Japanese-American.[3]

He grew up in Morro Bay, a city located on the Central Coast of California in San Luis Obispo County. He studied sociology and music at the University of California, Santa Cruz.[4] After graduation he moved to San Francisco State University to study music. While there, he took composition courses from Grosvenor Cooper and Roger Nixon. He also studied at the École Normale de Musique de Paris.


In Oper für Alle, Munich, 2010

Nagano's first conducting job was with the Opera Company of Boston, where he was assistant conductor to Sarah Caldwell. In 1978, he became the conductor of the Berkeley Symphony, his first music directorship. He stepped down from this position in 2009.[5] During his tenure in Berkeley, Nagano became a champion of the music of Olivier Messiaen and initiated a correspondence with him.[6] He was later invited to work with Messiaen on the final stages of his opera Saint François d'Assise in Paris, where he lived with Messiaen and his wife Yvonne Loriod, whom he came to regard as his "European parents".[7]

In 1982, Nagano conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in several of Frank Zappa's completely orchestral compositions for the first time. Nagano recorded several of Zappa's pieces on the issue London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1, where Zappa had personally chosen Nagano to conduct the orchestra. Nagano described this as "my first chance, my first real break".[8] In 1984, while assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he stepped in for Seiji Ozawa on short notice and without rehearsal,[9] receiving acclaim from the audience, orchestra, and Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer for a "noble performance"[10] of Mahler's Ninth Symphony.

Beginning in 1985, Nagano was the Music Director of the Ojai Music Festival four separate times, the last in 2004, and once alongside Stephen Mosko in 1986.

Nagano was music director of the Opéra de Lyon from 1988–1998, where he recorded, with the Lyon National Opera Orchestra and chorus, numerous works by Busoni (Doktor Faust, Arlecchino and Turandot), Stravinsky (The Rake's Progress), Offenbach (Les Contes d'Hoffmann), Debussy (world premiere of Rodrigue et Chimène), Canteloube (Chants d'Auvergne), Berlioz (La Damnation de Faust), Carlisle Floyd (Susannah), Richard Strauss (The French version of Salomé, the original version of Ariadne auf Naxos), Peter Eötvös (Trois Soeurs), Massenet (Werther), Delibes (Coppelia), Poulenc (Dialogues des Carmélites), Ravel (orchestral works), and Weill (Seven Deadly Sins).

Nagano served as principal conductor of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester from 1992-1999. During his tenure, Nagano received criticism for his expensive and ambitious programming, as well as his conducting fees.[11] However, poor financial management at the orchestra separately contributed to the fiscal troubles of the orchestra.[12] His contract was not renewed after 1999.

Nagano became principal conductor and artistic director of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in 2000, and served in this position until 2006. He made a number of recordings with the orchestra, including music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Bruckner, Alexander von Zemlinsky, and Gustav Mahler.

Nagano became principal conductor of the Los Angeles Opera (LA Opera) with the 2001-2002 season. In May 2003, Nagano was named the LA Opera's first music director, and he retained this position through 2006. He has been a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival, where he premiered Kaija Saariaho's L'amour de loin in 2000. He also conducted the world premiere of John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer at la Monnaie in Brussels.

In 2006, Nagano became the music director of both the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (OSM) and the Bavarian State Opera. His contract with the Bavarian State Opera did not allow him to be the music director of another opera company.[13] He concluded his Bavarian State Opera tenure in 2013.[14] With the OSM, he has conducted commercial recordings for such labels as ECM New Series and Analekta. His current contract with the OSM is through 2016.[2] He is also one of the Russian National Orchestra's Conductor Collegium.[15] In August 2012, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Nagano as its principal guest conductor and artistic advisor, as of the 2013-2014 season, with an initial contract of 3 years.[16] In September 2012, the Hamburg State Opera announced the appointment of Nagano as its next Generalmusikdirektor (General Music Director) and Chefdirigent (chief conductor), effective with the 2015-2016 season.,[17] with an initial contract through the 2019-2020 season.[18]

Personal life

Nagano is married to pianist Mari Kodama,[19] and they have one daughter.



  1. "Kent Nagano Appointments". Kent Nagano. 10 December 2015.
  2. 1 2 Arthur Kaptainis (2012-08-03). "Kent Nagano's future is a secret harmony of work". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2012-08-08.
  3. Asakawa, Gil. (2012). Being Japanese American, p. 79.
  4. Nagano, Kent. "University & Career in Music". Kent Nagano. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  5. "Joana Carneiro named Berkeley Symphony music director" (PDF). Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  6. Allan Kozinn (1 November 1987). "Nagano With a Little Bit of Luck, a Conducting Career Flourishes". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-30.
  7. Shirley Apthorp, "The quiet achiever", AB Radio 24 Hours, October 1995, p. 26
  8. Burnett, Richard (2008-09-04). "Nagano grooves". Hour (magazine). Retrieved 2008-09-04.
  9. Miller, Margo (December 9, 1984). "A Busy Young Maestro Gets To Sub For His Idol". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  10. Dyer, Richard (December 1, 1984). "BSO Hails Nagano After Triumph". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  11. John Ezard (25 May 1999). "Nagano passes on Halle baton". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
  12. Stephen Moss (28 May 1999). "Say Hallé, wave goodbye". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
  13. Daniel J. Wakin (17 September 2004). "National Briefing, West: California: Short Stay For A Music Director". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
  14. "Star Munich opera director Nagano resigns amid controversy". The Local. 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2012-08-08.
  15. Vadim Prokhorov (18 March 2004). "Batons at dawn". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
  16. Malin Clausson (2012-08-30). "Nagano tar över efter Dudamel". Göteborgs-Posten. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
  17. Arthur Kaptainis (2012-08-03). "OSM's Nagano to Hamburg Opera in 2015". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2012-10-31.
  18. Charlotte Smith (2012-09-26). "Kent Nagano appointed music director of Hamburg State Opera from 2015". Gramophone. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  19. Brownstein, Bill The maestro revealed: Kent Nagano marches to his own beat Montreal Gazette. December 10, 2015
  20. Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), "2008 Autumn Conferment of Decorations on Foreign Nationals," p. 6; retrieved 2012-12-4.

External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
John Eliot Gardiner
Music Director, Opéra National de Lyon
Succeeded by
Louis Langrée
Preceded by
Vladimir Ashkenazy
Principal Conductor, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Succeeded by
Ingo Metzmacher
Preceded by
no predecessor
Principal Conductor and Music Director, Los Angeles Opera
Succeeded by
James Conlon
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