George Manahan

Portland Opera welcomed George Manahan as its music director effective with the 2012/13 season. A frequent and popular guest artist at Portland Opera, the Atlanta-born conductor spent 14 years as the music director for New York City Opera and currently holds that title for the American Composer’s Orchestra.

Manahan’s appointment marks a landmark event for Portland Opera, which has experienced significant artistic growth and recognition under General Director Christopher Mattaliano’s leadership. He joins the company as one of the nation’s internationally acclaimed music directors, with a career that embraces an unusually wide range. He has conducted for many of the world’s leading opera companies including New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, National Opera of Paris, Santa Fe Opera, and Seattle Opera. In 2013, he made his debut at San Francisco Opera, where he conducted the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne. His other world premieres include Charles Wuorinen’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, David Lang’s Modern Painters, Hans Werner Henze’s The English Cat and the New York premiere of Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner.

Manahan’s conducting career also extends into the symphonic world, including the National Symphony Orchestra as well as the symphonies of Atlanta, San Francisco, the Warsaw Philharmonic, Indianapolis, the Juilliard School, and the Manhattan School of Music. As music director of the American Composer’s Orchestra and of the Richmond Symphony for twelve years, he has been honored four times by the American Society of Composers and Publishers for his commitment to 20th-century music.

He is also a widely recorded conductor, with his works including a 2004 Grammy nomination for Edward Thomas’ Desire under the Elms, as well as the premiere recordings of Steve Reich’s Tehillim and Tobias Picker’s Emmeline. His television performances include an Emmy Award for the 2007 telecast of New York City Opera’s production of Madame Butterfly on PBS’ “Live from Lincoln Center,” as well as broadcasts of La Bohème, Lizzie Borden and Tosca.

As Music Director, Manahan oversees the Portland Opera orchestra, working closely with them to achieve consistently higher levels of excellence. Manahan has distinguished himself here as one of Portland Opera’s most beloved guest conductors. He made his company debut in 2006 with Macbeth and has returned to conduct a number of productions including Rodelinda, Rigoletto, Così fan tutte, The Barber of Seville, Don Giovanni, Falstaff, Salome, Lucia Di Lammermoor, Die Fledermaus, Carmen, The Magic Flute, Sweeney Todd, The Italian Girl in Algiers, Man of La Mancha, La Bohème, Rigoletto, Faust, Big Night Concert, The Barber of Seville, and La Finta Giardiniera. He also conducted Portland Opera’s first-ever Big Night Concert in 2011.


“What a difference it makes to hear the piece performed by an opera conductor who palpably believes in it…the fervent and sensitive performance that Mr. Manahan presided over made the best case for this opera that I have encountered.”
—The New York Times, NYCO’s Anthony and Cleopatra at Carnegie Hall

“The Orchestra of St. Luke’s exceeded its usual high standard for versatility; George Manahan, the conductor, did an outstanding job of keeping everything in sync.”
—The New York Times, Ask Your Mama! with Jessye Norman at Carnegie Hall

“the orchestra, brought up from the pit, sounded lush, focused and balanced under the direction of George Manahan”
— The Oregonian, Big Night (2011)

“The orchestra, conducted by George Manahan, played outstandingly: opening with a snappy overture and supporting the singers with just the right volume, spot-on intonation, and expressive phrasing. Manahan did double duty at the harpsichord and at one point in the first act he deftly teased the audience with phrases from Puccini, Bach and a TV quiz show.”
— Oregon Music News, The Barber of Seville (2010)

“Conductor George Manahan similarly led the orchestra in effortless accompaniment, maintaining tight ensemble between pit and stage.”
— Oregon Live, The Barber of Seville (2010)

“From the first measures of the overture, this ‘Cosi” was a treat, because conductor George Manahan fearlessly pressed the orchestra to play as fast as they possibly could. In fact, he whipped his baton so furiously about that the music seemed almost to careen out of control …Manahan and the musicians set the tone that this ‘Cosi” was going to be special or die trying”
—Oregon Music News, Così fan tutte (2010)

“[George Manahan] restores a delicious sense of brashness and even vulgarity to the score, especially during a brief burst of banda music in Act I and during the storm in Act III … Manahan’s wordless choruses and offbeat violins evoke King Lear on the heath—appropriately, since that play fertilized Verdi’s imagination”
—Willamette Week, Rigoletto (2009)