Opera North has announced the return of the Leeds Conductors Competition, which is being held for the first time in 11 years to find a new generation of British conductors.
Held by the Leeds International Concert Season in partnership with the opera company, the relaunched competition will offer total prize money of £21,000 and a series of professional engagements with companies including the City of London Sinfonia, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
The application process is open to conductors who are British citizens and are aged 35 and under, however organisers said they are keen to attract a wide range of musicians from all backgrounds in recognition of the profession’s historic lack of diversity.
The Leeds Conductors Competition was founded in 1984 and ran until 2009. Its inaugural winner, Sian Edwards, went on to become music director of English National Opera, while Opera North’s current music director designate – Garry Walker – won it in 1999.
Walker said: “[The competition] certainly helped to open up opportunities that might not have arisen quite so quickly otherwise, and it signalled the beginning of a new phase in my development as a conductor.
“I would encourage all those participating, whether they win or not, to think of the competition not as an end in itself. The competition is there to help speed the learning curve of all involved.”
Revamped for 2020, it returns in September, when 16 selected conductors will perform with players from Opera North’s orchestra in a closed round, and successful applicants progressing to further public rounds.
The final, on September 12, will feature a full gala concert staged as part of the Leeds International Concert Season.
The winner will be awarded a £10,000 cash prize, with two further finalists given £3,500 and three semi-finalists winning £1,000. An additional £1,000 will be awarded through audience ballot on the final night.
It is also intended to provide a platform for the winner to launch a professional career, and concert engagements with 14 companies have been agreed in principle. Participating organisations also include the Hallé Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Southbank Sinfonia.
Applications are open until April 9, with the first round taking place on September 8.