(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.
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. Since returning to the U.S., he has also served as Associate Music Director at the Houston Grand Opera.
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. He made his conducting debut with performances of Handel’s Alcina, and 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.
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.“
In 2010-11 Melear was on staff at the Vienna State Opera, where he conducted performances of Iván Eröd’s Pünktchen und Anton and Wilfried Hiller’s Das Traumfresserchen. He assisted on over 14 productions and worked closely with some of the world’s best conductors, guest artists, and the State Opera’s ensemble singers. He was also featured on continuo for Don Giovanni, L’italiana in Algeri, Il barbiere di Siviglia, and L’elisir d’amore.
“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.
Melear’s 2014-15 season began with conducting the San Francisco Opera Merola Program’s Schwabacher Concerts in July 2014. After spending the fall as a guest staff member of the Vienna State Opera, he then served as Musical Advisor to Maestro Seiji Ozawa in Japan for multiple performances of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèeges. He finished the season with the artistic highlight of conducting John Corgliano’s Ghosts of Versailles at Wolf Trap Opera.
This season Eric looks forward to serving on the music staff at the Vienna State Opera, as musical advisor to Seiji Ozawa for L'enfent et les sortileges in Japan, and as guest faculty for the HGO Studio. He also returns to Wolf Trap Opera to conduct Gassmann’s L’opera seria and makes his debut with Arizona Opera leading Verdi’s Falstaff.