The Opera Center, photo by Sean Airhart.
Photo by Brandon Patoc

Seattle Welcomes New Leaders at Seattle Opera & Seattle Symphony

Seattle is very fortunate to be among a relatively small group of U.S. cities that have the “Big Three”: a top tier symphony orchestra, opera, and ballet company. Our residents and visitors enjoy hundreds of performances every year ranging from world premieres to beloved classics.

As the 2019-2020 season begins, two of these venerable Seattle arts organizations are welcoming new artistic leadership: Christina Scheppelmann to Seattle Opera and Thomas Dausgaard to Seattle Symphony. Both are coming from highly respected positions in Europe, and we can’t wait to see what new experiences they have in store for Seattle audiences. I asked each few questions; read on for their thoughts on what drew them to Seattle and what lies ahead.

Seattle Opera General Director—Christina Scheppelmann is the company’s fourth leader in 56 years. Photo: Philip Newton

Q&A with Christina Scheppelmann, General Director of Seattle Opera

Born in Germany and fluent in five languages, Scheppelmann was most recently the artistic leader of one of Europe’s top operas, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu — a 172-year-old company that produces more than 130 performances per season. She started at Seattle Opera in August.

In your opinion, what sets Seattle Opera apart from other opera companies?

Seattle Opera Photo: Sean Airhart

A functional and brand-new Opera Center! Most of our colleagues throughout the U.S. are not as fortunate to have such a purpose-built facility that connects us with the community. I would also say we have an excellent staff, crew, chorus, performance hall with outstanding acoustics, and a truly renowned orchestra, The Seattle Symphony. We have so many fantastic assets to be proud of! (Editor note: Members of the Seattle Symphony play live for Seattle Opera in addition to their own extensive season offerings.)

What are you most looking forward to about being in Seattle?

The rain—I love it. I’m from Hamburg, Germany where it’s wet outside half the year. Rain makes for a lush, green environment. Plus, the air after a rain is so beautiful and refreshing. In Hamburg, we say, “There’s no bad weather, only wrong clothing.”

What’s your favorite thing about Seattle so far?

Being back in the U.S., trivial things such as Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond! In Seattle, I love watching planes land. (I have the Flightradar24 application on my phone!). The landscape, water, mountains — being closer to many friends I am fortunate to have in the U.S. There are so many things. I am truly happy to be here.

What can audiences expect from Seattle Opera under your leadership?

Quality productions and young, exciting singers, as well as perhaps some internationally acclaimed artists. I am also very approachable as a leader, and as a person.

Thomas Dausgaard Photo: Karya Shanilec

Q&A with Thomas Dausgaard, Music Director of Seattle Symphony

For Thomas, Seattle has long been a home away from his native Denmark. Serving as Seattle Symphony’s Principal Guest Conductor since 2014, Thomas also has close working relationships with many of the leading orchestras in Europe, and has established an international reputation for his creativity and innovation in programming. He is currently Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. He takes the baton at Seattle Symphony this month.

In your opinion, what sets the Seattle Symphony apart from other symphony orchestras?

Seattle Symphony is an outstanding virtuoso orchestra of excellent musicians, performing not just on a very high level but doing so engagingly and with a soul. The orchestra shines in a wide range of repertoire from baroque to romantic and to new, contemporary works – it’s exciting to think of the composers writing for us and the soloists, and conductors performing with us. We also have a great and curious audience, and this combination means that we can be bold in the repertoire we choose for our concert programs.

What’s your favorite thing about Seattle so far and what are you most looking forward to?

For me, the arts is our human response to the life and world we are given. In Seattle, we are given a lot: a beautiful light, possibility to see water, forests and mountains all around the city, and an overall vicinity to nature, making it accessible to explore. This makes the city very attractive for artists as many of us draw inspiration from these elements. It’s this beautiful setting that makes me excited to be in Seattle and my favorite thing about this city — I feel so fortunate to make music with this orchestra in such a wondrous part of the world.

What can audiences expect from Seattle Symphony under your leadership?

Seattle Symphony Photo: Brandon Patoc

I am excited about our plans for some terrific seasons of music making ahead! Every concert is a kind of party, and I hope more and more people will be discovering what great joy it is to join, experiencing live music at our wonderful hall. I am particularly looking forward to engaging a number of Seattle community groups on stage in our concerts celebrating Beethoven this season, and finding ways to connect with our fans all over the world through our award-winning recordings, live broadcasts and social media. The Seattle Symphony and our collaboration is much admired internationally, and it is my hope that one day we can meet much of those fans in person on tour!

I’m looking forward to the season — I hope you will visit our events calendar to search for performances and plan to join us.

Learn more at and See you in the concert halls!


Top Banner: The Opera Center, photo by Sean Airhart.

About the Author

Tracey Wickersham

Tracey Wickersham is the Senior Director of Cultural Tourism at Visit Seattle. A volunteer dj & host of a long running music program on KBCS 91.3 FM, she spent 6 years on the board of 4Culture, supporting arts, heritage, public art and historic preservation in King County. You'll often find her at the Tractor Tavern enjoying great bands, exploring one of the region's beautiful parks with her spunky blue heeler mix, or in one of Seattle's many live theater venues.

More Posts By Tracey Wickersham


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