Russian-American conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya is a fiercely committed advocate for Russian masterpieces, operatic rarities, and contemporary works on the leading edge of classical music. She has conducted more than 40 world premieres, including 16 operas, and her strength as a visionary collaborator has guided new perspectives on staged and symphonic repertoire from Carmen and Queen of Spades to Price and Prokofiev. As Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater, Ms. Yankovskaya has led the Chicago premieres of Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick, Rachmaninov’s Aleko, Joby Talbot’s Everest, Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, and the world premiere of Dan Shore’s Freedom Ride. Her daring performances before and amid the pandemic earned recognition from the Chicago Tribune, which praised her as “the very model of how to survive adversity, and also how to thrive in it,” while naming her 2020 Chicagoan of the Year.
In the 2021/22 season, Ms. Yankovskaya makes a trio of Texan debuts, leading performances of Carmen at Houston Grand Opera, a tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and concerts featuring works by Gershwin and Dawson at Fort Worth Symphony. Elsewhere, she debuts with Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, makes her Minnesota Opera debut with Voices United, leads a program of Brahms and Wagner at Elgin Symphony, and makes her Pasadena Symphony debut conducting works by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Gabriela Lena Frank. At Chicago Opera Theater, she conducts the Chicago premiere of Mark Adamo’s Becoming Santa Claus and a concert version of Carmen, starring Jamie Barton opposite Stephanie Blythe.
Ms. Yankovskaya has recently conducted Don Giovanni at Seattle Opera, Pia de’ Tolomei at Spoleto Festival USA, Il barbiere di Siviglia at Wolf Trap Opera, Ellen West at New York’s Prototype Festival, and the world premiere of Taking Up Serpents at Washington National Opera. On the concert stage, she has been recently engaged with Chicago Philharmonic, Rhode Island Philharmonic, and the symphony orchestras of Hawaii and Oviedo, Spain.
Ms. Yankovskaya is Founder and Artistic Director of the Refugee Orchestra Project, which proclaims the cultural and societal relevance of refugees through music, and has brought that message to hundreds of thousands of listeners around the world. In addition to a National Sawdust residency in Brooklyn, ROP has performed in London, Boston, Washington, D.C., and the United Nations. She has also served as Artistic Director of the Boston New Music Festival and Juventas New Music Ensemble, which was the recipient of multiple NEA grants and National Opera Association Awards under her leadership.
As Music Director of Harvard’s Lowell House Opera, Ms. Yankovskaya conducted sold-out performances of repertoire rarely heard in Boston, including Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the U.S. Russian-language premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden. Her commitment to exploring the breadth of symphonic and operatic repertoire has also been demonstrated in performances of Rachmaninoff’s Aleko and the American premieres of Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei, Rubinshteyn’s The Demon, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Kashchej The Immortal and Symphony No. 1.
An alumna of the Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors and the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship, Ms. Yankovskaya has also served as assistant conductor to Lorin Maazel, chorus master of Boston Symphony Orchestra, and conductor of Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. She has been featured in the League of American Orchestras Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview and Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music, and assisted Vladimir Jurowski via a London Philharmonic fellowship.
Ms. Yankovskaya holds a B.A. in Music and Philosophy from Vassar College, with a focus on piano, voice, and conducting, and earned an M.M. in Conducting from Boston University. Her conducting teachers and mentors have included Lorin Maazel, Marin Alsop, Kenneth Kiesler, and Ann Howard Jones.
Ms. Yankovskaya’s belief in the importance of mentorship has fueled the establishment of Chicago Opera Theater’s Vanguard Initiative, an investment in new opera that includes a two-year residency for emerging opera composers. Committed to developing the next generation of artistic leaders, she also volunteers with Turn The Spotlight, a foundation dedicated to identifying, nurturing, and empowering leaders – and in turn, to illuminating the path to a more equitable future in the arts.
Recipient of Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Awards in 2018 and 2021, Ms. Yankovskaya has been a featured speaker at the League of American Orchestras and Opera America conferences, and served as U.S. Representative to the 2018 World Opera Forum in Madrid.