#23: An Interview with Olivia Clarke

Today I’m with conductor Olivia Clarke, who has just been appointed the new Mackerras Conducting Fellow at English National Opera. We’re discussing the challenges of conducting opera, and of being a woman on the podium.

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Olivia Clarke

British/Irish conductor Olivia Clarke was born in London and is based in Berlin. Olivia has recently been named as the new Charles Mackerras Conducting Fellow at English National Opera for 2020-2022. Olivia has previously worked at ENO assisting conductor Geoffrey Paterson for Glass’s Orphée and will be conducting their Studio Live production of Weir’s Blond Eckbert in May. This season Olivia will also be Assistant Conductor for Alice Farnham at Longborough Festival Opera for Cal McCrystal’s production of L’elisir d’amore.

A recipient of the DAAD (Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst) scholarship for her conducting studies, Olivia trained with Steven Sloane and Harry Curtis at the International Conducting Academy Berlin, Universität der Künste, graduating in 2020. During her studies Olivia conducted in masterclasses with orchestras such as the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester, Neubrandenburger Philharmonie, Magdeburgische Philharmonie, Brandenburger Symphoniker and Bochum Symphoniker. Olivia was also Assistant Conductor to Errico Fresis for L’heure espagnole, Angélique, La voix humaine performed at Unit Theater, Universität der Künste.

From 2018-2019 Olivia held the position of principal conductor of Orchester Benjamin Franklin Berlin, an amateur orchestra performing biannual concerts, with whom she was praised for her innovative programming. Olivia has recently enjoyed her first ‘jump-in’ performance, where she conducted Léhar’s Der Zarewitsch at Nordharzerstädtebundtheater. Olivia has also worked with Oper oder Spree as Assistant Conductor/Repetiteur for Die Zauberflöte

Before moving to Berlin, Olivia completed her Masters in singing at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and read Music with an Organ Scholarship at the Queen’s College, University of Oxford. While living in Glasgow studying singing, Olivia turned her attention to conducting after participating in some masterclasses. Olivia then founded Fox Opera, a company for young professionals, with whom she conducted Der Schauspieldirekor and le docteur miracle. A keen performer of contemporary opera, Olivia conducted the Art of Venus Music Troupe for the London new opera festival Tête à Tête, and was Musical Director for The Beautiful Bridegroom by Shore performed at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Olivia has studied conducting Sian Edwards and has taken part in masterclasses with Sir Roger Norrington, Alice Farnham, Jane Glover, Claire Gibault, Anthony Hermus, and Garry Walker.

Alongside conducting, Olivia has worked as a repetiteur, vocal coach, accompanist for singers, and continuo player and was a repetiteur for British Youth Opera‘s 2018 production of The Rake’s Progress/Stravinsky. Olivia also enjoys a long-standing relationship with the Finchley Children’s Music Group in London, a choir she was once a member of, and now teaches and conducts on their annual summer schools. Olivia is an Associate of the Royal College of Organists.

Olivia is currently mentored by Jennifer Spencer at IMG Artist Management.