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Kazem Abdullah

Kazem Abdullah
conductor, clarinetist, adjudicator

Kazem Abdullah works internationally and excels at reaching newer and diverse audiences, conducting concerts and operas in a wide variety of styles and formats. Kazem Abdullah conducted four modern operas in 2022: The Life and Times of Malcolm X and The Central Park Five by composer Anthony Davis as well as the world premiere of Castor and Patience composed by Greg Spears with a libretto by Track K Smith and Omar composed by Rhiannon Giddons. Among his recent orchestral credits are the Oregon, Indianapolis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati symphony orchestras. In addition to his symphony engagements, he recently conducted an opera Gala for the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the American premiere of Charles Wuorinen’s opera Brokeback Mountain with the New York City Opera, Tosca for Seattle Opera, and Hänsel und Gretel for Cape Town Opera.

Abdullah currently lives in Nürnberg, Germany, and was the Generalmusikdirektor in Aachen, Germany, from 2012 to 2017. During his tenure in Aachen, in addition to reaching newer and diverse audiences through innovative programming, moving out of the concert hall, and experimenting with juxtapositions of styles in non-traditional concert formats, he also conducted over 25 operas. He collaborated with musicians such as Johannes Moser, Lise de la Salle, Angela Gheorghiu, Augustin Haedelich, and Midori.

Prior to 2012, Abdullah led the Orquestra de São Paulo on its third United States coast-to-coast tour and the New World Symphony at the Ives In-Context Festival by special invitation from Michael Tilson Thomas. He also conducted the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in performances of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in collaboration with the Mark Morris Dance Group. He was also an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, where he assisted and prepared over twenty operas, including Der Ring des NibelungenWozzeck, and Lulu.

Abdullah has also guest conducted at companies such as the Atlanta Opera, Portland Opera, Detroit Opera, and the Théâtre du Châtelet de Paris, where he led sold-out performances of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha. Abdullah made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2009, conducting Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, and will return in the fall of 2023 with Anthony Davis’ opera The Life and Times of Malcolm X.

In the 2022-23 season, Abdullah makes debuts with the Atlanta Symphony, Charlotte Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony, Los Angeles Opera, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. At Lyric Opera of Chicago, he will collaborate with soprano Renee Fleming and director Yuval Sharon on Proximity.

Trained as a clarinetist, Abdullah has performed extensively as an orchestral musician, chamber musician, and soloist. He spent two seasons as a member of the New World Symphony and performed as a soloist with orchestras such as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as the chamber ensembles Trio Wanderer and the Auryn Quartet.

A dedicated educator, Abdullah has worked with student orchestras at the Interlochen Arts Center, the Oklahoma Arts Institute, and at universities in Cologne, Germany, and Stellenbosch, South Africa. He was awarded the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award by his alma mater, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where he worked with the students there and spoke at their commencement in 2015.