(Photograph of Eric Melear '95 by Felix Sanchez)
From Vienna, Virginia, to Vienna, Austria.
For several summers, Conductor Eric Melear ’95 led productions for the GRAMMY-nominated Wolf Trap Opera Company in Vienna, Virginia, one of the nation’s most highly regarded opera residency programs. And each winter, Melear migrated south to his other job at Houston’s Grand Opera, starting as an accompanist in the Studio Program and quickly advancing to Associate Conductor and Assistant Chorus Master.
Last fall, Melear left Vienna, Virginia, to join the staff of the busiest opera house on the planet, as Korrepetitor of the Vienna Staatsoper in Austria. During this time, he honed his talents as pianist, conductor, vocal coach, and chorus master while simultaneously improving his skill as an administrator and audition consultant.
A mathematics and music major at Luther, he followed his musical leanings after graduation, working for music publisher Hal Leonard, as a freelance pianist, and in the marketing department of Florentine Opera, and earning a master’s degree in piano accompanying at the University of Michigan under renowned pianist Martin Katz.
As Eric’s career began to flourish in Houston, Wolf Trap identified him as a candidate for their 2003 summer season. “We identified Eric as an ideal candidate for the company,” says Kim Pensinger Witman, Director of the Wolf Trap Opera Company. With characteristic affinity, Melear’s contribution to the summer Company has grown exponentially in his eight-year tenure. Three years ago, he made his conducting debut with performances of Handel’s Alcina, and last summer he conducted Rossini's Il turco in Italia.
After making his podium debut with the Houston Grand Opera with performances of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Melear was honored as the recipient of the 2006 Sir Georg Solti Foundation Award for young conductors.
Last year, Melear received his invitation to Vienna from Kathleen Kelly, who had herself been recently appointed to lead the music staff of the Vienna Staatsoper. Asked why she selected him, Kelly responded, “Eric treats other musicians with respect and will always tell the truth, but not in a way that tears anyone down.“
“Most important to me is the sense of community that Luther fostered,” says Eric. “Finding common ground with my colleagues in choirs, in classes, in services, and beyond prepared me well for a career famous for high pressure and larger-than-life personalities. I have been fortunate in my life so far to have opportunities intersect my path that have been too good to pass up, but more and more, I am thankful for the experiences at Luther that taught me how to be prepared and seize those opportunities.”
Not one to be satisfied with just the success of his administrative and musical direction of his artistic life, Melear has also developed a passion for photography, which he has indulged to great success in the last few years. The marketing departments of both Houston Grand Opera and Wolf Trap Opera Company routinely use his pictures, and his photo of legendary mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade during the premiere of Jake Heggie’s opera, Three Decembers, serves as the cover image of the audio recording issued by Albany records. Other photos by Melear have made their way onto the pages of the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, and the New York Observer.