Meet Lina González-Granados, .L.A Opera’s new resident conductor

In a downtown Los Angeles concert hall last Saturday night, classical music fans applauded a superstar Latin American conductor with pride and enthusiasm. It wasn’t LA familiar Venezuelan with tightly coiled salt and pepper locks on stagebut rather a newer face in town — a Colombian-American with straight, glossy brown hair slicked back in a bouncy ponytail.

Lina González-Granados, LA Opera’s new resident conductor, received a warm welcome from opera fans on September 17 when she made her debut at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor on the opening night of the company’s season.

When the curtain falls on a performance of Lucia, the audience usually reserves its heartiest applause for the soprano, who as Lucia must deliver wildly complex strings of sky-high notes while simultaneously portraying a murderous, increasingly insane heroine. On opening night, talented soprano Amanda Woodbury got her due, but the audience was just as generous (if not a little more) in praising González-Granados.

The 36-year-old conductor has studied with titans such as Riccardo Muti, Marin Alsop, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the late Bramwell Tovey, and has conducted with both the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Seattle Symphony. She exudes professionalism and strong musicality. But there is an additional element to their musical personality that draws audiences in, conveying not just dedication and precision, but also charisma and passion.

Before winning a Sphinx Medal of Excellence or being selected for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Sir Georg Solti International Conducting Competition, González-Granados was a young woman in Calí, Colombia who dressed in traditional robes along with her classmates, imagine up to sing, play guitar and dance. González-Granados says she tried her best to keep up with the choreography but wasn’t very successful.

“I’m the worst dancer in the world, but I still do it,” she says. “I still go to class and dance salsa. I try because I love it.”

González-Granados describes growing up in the “salsa capital of the world” as active, idyllic and full of music and dance. It was “a very nice childhood full of friends and activities,” she says, noting that the weather in Calí fluctuates between a comfortable mid-60s and mid-80s year-round and that she loves the friends she grew up with there is, still considers them “real people.”

A conductor poses with her baton.

In her capacity as LA Opera’s new resident conductor, Lina González-Granados hopes to one day bring a great Latin opera to the downtown LA stage

(Craig Matthews)

She vividly remembers her first musical experiences. When she was about 5 years old, she joined a “Tuna” – a musical group traditionally made up of college students wearing matching elaborate capes and standing in a semicircle, brandishing Spanish guitars of various sizes and shapes, and singing ballads . At a tuna, the members also take turns stepping into the center of the circle to dance.

While she jokes about struggling with the tuna’s dance steps, González-Granados is unequivocal about her musical talent from a young age: “I was the only one who was in tune with the tuna,” she says, laughing.

Jokes aside, those early experiences of singing, dancing, playing the guitar and castanets were formative. She understood then on a visceral level that music is a physical activity, that melody, rhythm and harmony are synonymous with movement.

In addition to the salsa and folk music that surrounded her in everyday life, González-Granados listened to opera recordings with her father and began taking classical piano lessons. Her mother insisted that she also learn to play Colombian and other Latin music on the piano. “I wanted to focus on classical because I needed the technique,” she says. “My mom was like, ‘You have to know your roots.'”

While her parents supported their only child musically, they are not musicians themselves. Both González-Granados’ mother and father studied medicine, and throughout her adolescence her father supported the family as a practicing doctor.

By the time she reached high school, González-Granados’ life was changing with the turbulent winds of Colombian politics and conflict with guerrilla and paramilitary groups. Kidnappings started with friends of friends, then friends.

As a teenager, she felt less confident playing tennis or swimming. And so González-Granados spent more time indoors and became very, very good at playing the piano.

She majored in piano at college in Bogotá, until the long hours of solitary practice began to wear her down and she had what she calls her “first artistic crisis.” Playing the piano was a lonely endeavor. Conducting choirs and ensembles with groups of musicians, on the other hand, was great fun. She changed her major.

Towards the end of her studies there was another artistic crisis. González-Granados says she cannot imagine a professional future in Colombia. “I wasn’t happy that women didn’t have opportunities, so I moved to the States,” she says.

Lina González-Granados is the new resident conductor at LA Opera.

Lina González-Granados is the new resident conductor at LA Opera.

(Eliza Logan)

She first landed in New York, took evening conducting classes at the Juilliard School, learned English, and found her American foundations by applying to graduate schools. After a year in New York, she moved to Boston, where she lived for the next 12 years, earning a master’s degree in conducting from the New England Conservatory of Music and a doctorate in conducting from Boston University, and met Andrew Moreschi, the trumpeter player who is now her husband.

Today, González-Granados, Moreschi and their beloved Shiba Inu, Mimi, live in Philadelphia. It’s a happy life with a strong community of musician friends, a life she misses while traveling. When she is on the road as a conductor, she can feel lonely, so her husband or mother and father often accompany her. For example, while she is conducting “Lucia” in LA on October 9th, her father is here. “He’s the best roommate I’ve ever had,” she says with a smile.

González-Granados says she accepted the job at LA Opera because she feels connected not only to the company but also to the city. “We share these similarities in our culture,” she says, “I feel very welcome here.”

at the beginning of this summer her Hollywood Bowl debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, that embrace was heard in the form of enthusiastic cheers and applause after she presented Nina Shekhar’s “Lumina” and her tall, muscular rendition of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” with shimmering delivery.

Next in Southland – Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony with the Pasadena Symphony on November 12th. And while LA Opera is yet to release details of future engagements, González-Granados says she’s looking forward to reaching out to younger audiences soon, and would love to one day bring a major Latin opera to the Bring stage to downtown LA

At the Bowl, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, or next month in Pasadena, when Angelenos applauds González-Granados, they praise their significant skills, their talent and respond to their communicative conducting style. Because when González-Granados conducts, it’s as if the music lives in her body, flows through her arms and dances with the right steps. Meet Lina González-Granados, .L.A Opera’s new resident conductor

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