Back to Posts

Ward Stare makes his Metropolitan Opera debut

For Immediate Release:  March 6, 2017
Media Contacts:  Sally Cohen, 585-749-1795,


RPO Music Director conducts The Merry Widow in December/January
~ Maestro Stare fast becoming RPO and ROC ambassador ~


Rochester, NY – The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) is proud to announce that Music Director Ward Stare will make his Metropolitan Opera conducting debut December 14, 2017 – January 11, 2018. He’ll lead all nine performances of Franz Lehár’s enduringly popular operetta, The Merry Widow, with Grammy-winning mezzo soprano Susan Graham in the title role.

“I’m thrilled to be making my Met debut – it’s one of the world’s most prestigious opera houses and conducting there will be a dream come true for me,” says Stare. “As an opera lover, I’m also very excited to share some amazing opera here in Rochester this May with La Boheme, as well as next May with Carmen – both season finales for the RPO.”

This latest feather in Stare’s cap is part of a much larger, emerging role for the 34-year old Rochester native, who became the RPO’s 12th and youngest music director in July of 2014. Not only has he been on a fast track since becoming the youngest-ever Principal Trombone for the Lyric Opera of Chicago when he was just 18 years old, but his maturity and charisma – coupled with his passion for Rochester and its Orchestra – have translated into a huge win for the RPO and the Rochester community.

“Ward Stare’s presence has been a significant factor contributing to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s dramatic financial turnaround,” states RPO President & CEO Ralph Craviso. “He is a talented and a hard-working Music Director as well as an ardent ambassador for this orchestra. His artistic leadership certainly accounts in large part for the RPO’s dramatically increased ticket sales and donations.”

A Rochester native, Stare played trombone in the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra for several years before his acceptance into The Juilliard School at age 16. Under the tutelage of Chicago Lyric Opera Music Director Sir Andrew Davis, he pursued his conducting dreams during the Opera’s off-seasons while still a teenager. Just five years later, Stare received the Aspen Conducting Academy’s Robert J. Harth Conductor Prize before winning the Aspen Conducting Prize the following year. He then spent the 2007/08 season as a League of American Orchestras Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Stare was just 24 when he made his critically acclaimed conducting debut with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Music Center. The Plain Dealer praised his “clear and vibrant performance and keen ear for phrasing, balance and pacing.” He became resident conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra the following year, and at 26, made his highly successful Carnegie Hall debut with the Orchestra, stepping in at the last minute for Music Director David Robertson.

At 29, he was named ‘Musician of the Month’ by Musical America and received an invitation to participate in the prestigious Allianz Cultural Foundation’s 2012 International Conductors’ Academy.  Over the course of four months, Stare worked intensively with both the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia, culminating in his debut with the LPO in Royal Festival Hall in 2012. He began conducting with the Lyric Opera of Chicago that same year and with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis a year later. In 2014, he made his Washington National Opera debut, and was appointed RPO Music Director.

“It is always a great joy to hear that one of my pupils has been selected as Music Director of a first-class orchestra. On this occasion it is an added pleasure for me, because it is with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra that I also began my American career,” commented Maestro David Zinman at the time of Stare’s appointment. “Ward Stare has the talent and personality to give the RPO something new and vibrant.”

After opening his first full season with the RPO in September of 2015, Rochester’s CITY Newspaper remarked that “it seems that the RPO’s patrons would be receptive to just about any piece that Stare opts to perform.” The Democrat and Chronicle stated that “Stare physically draws the passion out of his orchestra” and that “the rapport between the musicians and the conductor was obvious.”

“Ward came to the RPO at a defining moment in our long and storied history. Because of his energetic leadership, we have stabilized as an organization, continued our artistic growth, and further developed our relationship with Rochester’s wonderfully supportive community,” say RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde and her husband, Principal Oboe Erik Behr. “Ward’s tremendously positive impact on our audiences has been immediately palpable; we can feel the excitement on stage as we see so many new faces in the hall. His willingness to engage the entire community with his enthusiasm and passion, along with his imaginative and exciting programming, is resulting in a new generation of RPO supporters.”   

Stare has been called “one of the hottest young conductors in America” by the St. Louis Post Dispatch and “a rising star in the conducting firmament” by the Chicago Tribune.  The New York Times described him as “inspiring musicians to impressive heights,” while Rochester’s CITY Newspaper remarked that Stare’s “consummate control of the orchestral sound could not be overlooked” and that “the collective musical energy was irrepressible.”

“Ward has risen quickly in the conducting ranks, but I’m just as amazed at his ability to make both himself and classical music accessible,” remarks RPO Board Chairperson Jules L. Smith. “He can demystify classical music on morning TV just as successfully as he can chat with prospective donors about the RPO’s contribution to our quality of life.”

Certainly the success of the RPO can also be attributed to the integral work of the RPO’s talented and dedicated musicians, Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik, an energized administrative staff led by Craviso, and a hardworking Board of Directors. Stare, however, has become the de facto face – and heart – of the Orchestra for many of those in Rochester and beyond. 

“The RPO was my very first exposure to live symphonic music as a child, so I know first-hand how life-changing this orchestra can be. We already reach more than 160,000 people in the greater Rochester community each year – over 20,000 of whom are children – and we strive to engage many more in even better ways with this community’s generous support,” adds Stare. “I’m very proud to represent this world-class orchestra and this world-class community – whether at Charlotte Beach, Kodak Hall, or Lincoln Center!”

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has been committed to enriching and inspiring our community through the art of music since its founding in 1922. The RPO presents approximately 140 concerts and broadcasts a year, serving up to 160,000 people through ticketed events, education and community engagement activities, and concerts in schools and community centers throughout the region. Recently appointed 12th Music Director Ward Stare joins the ranks of former notable RPO music directors, including Eugene Goossens, José Iturbi, Erich Leinsdorf, David Zinman and Conductor Laureate Christopher Seaman. Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik has earned a national reputation for excellence in pops programming during his 23-year tenure with the RPO. With Michael Butterman as Principal Conductor for Education and Community Engagement (The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair), the RPO reaches more than 22,000 children through its specific programs for school-aged children.

Media please note: Images of 2016/17 concerts are available at, 2017/18 at Interviews and photo/footage opportunities can be arranged.