Curtain to ring down for FGO’s Stewart Robertson
“Every artistic organization needs new and fresh artistic stimulation and now is an appropriate time for FGO to make a change,” said Robert M. Heuer, company general director and CEO in a written statement, confirming the company had not renewed Robertson’s contract. “I believe that at this time the Opera will benefit from having guest conductors who bring different musical experiences, which they can share with our artists and the orchestra.”
Robertson is currently in rehearsals for the company’s production of Lakme, which opens Feb. 21. Attempts to reach him Wednesday through a company spokesman were unsuccessful.
The Scottish conductor will be a prominent presence in his final two seasons. He leads three of the company’s four productions in 2009-2010, and in addition to Lakme, Robertson will be on the podium for the company’s two remaining productions, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, as well as Bryn Terfel’s concert on April 6.
While a genial and witty personality, the Glasgow-born conductor has come under fire from critics and many local operagoers in recent seasons for a lack of polish and vitality in his performances.
More broadly, Robertson as the company’s most prominent musician, has been criticized for weak artistic leadership, as evident in inconsistent casting, the disastrous mounting of the comically bad operetta Szulamit in 2004, and the deteriorating quality of the company’s orchestra, which led to a contractor change at the end of last season.
Robertson made his FGO debut in 1996 with a highly praised production of Werther. In his review of the production, Miami Herald music critic James Roos stated, “From the first few bars in the orchestra, it was clear that conductor Stewart Robertson, making his local debut, completely grasps the marvelous melodious Massenet style. He had the orchestra playing with unforced fluency and flow, so that subtle Wagnerian colorings emerged with perfect pacing and naturalness.”
Robertson’s first appearance as music director was Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann in February, 1999. By the end of his fifteen-year association with FGO, Robertson will have conducted 41 productions including Eugene Onegin, Kátya Kabanová, Regina, La Finta Giardiniera, Paul Bunyan, the world premiere of Anna Karenina, and the Aida that opened the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center in 2006.
The conductor led Glimmerglass Opera in upstate New York from 1988-2006, and served as artistic director of Opera Omaha from 2004-2008. In 2007, Robertson was nominated for a Grammy Award for his recording of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett’s opera The Mines of Sulphur. He currently conducts the Atlantic Classical Orchestra in Fort Pierce.
In his statement, Heuer thanked Robertson for his work as music director and wished him well. Though the men had discussed a possible return in future seasons, Heuer said, “We have no commitments [with Robertson] beyond 2010.”
The company general director indicated that no successor would be appointed as music director and that in the near future Florida Grand Opera will rely on guest conductors, saving a large salary at a time of financial crisis.
Heuer also stated that all music and artistic responsibilities would be jointly assumed by himself and Michael Lonergan, director of artistic administration.
[Photos of Bob Heuer and Robertson conducting by Deborah Gray MItchell.]
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Thu Feb 5, 2009
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