Erik Nielsen

American conductor Erik Nielsen has been named the new Music Director of Theater Basel, beginning with the 2016/2017 season. Mr. Nielsen is the theater's first music director since 2006. His appointment by the city joins him with Intendant-designate Andreas Beck and Opera Director-designate Laura Berman, both of whom will begin their respective tenures in 2015/2016, to complete the theater's artistic team.

In the upcoming 2015/2016 season, his designate year, Mr. Nielsen will conduct a new opera production as well as make several concert appearances. In 2016/2017 he begins his first full season as Music Director in the artistic leadership of Theater Basel, maintaining an ongoing collaboration with the musicians of the Basel Symphony Orchestra and with the singers of the ensemble to cultivate and uphold the musical quality of the house.

Theater Basel is Switzerland’s largest multipurpose theater. It offers a broad spectrum of opera, theater, ballet, classic and contemporary works, as well as a robust outreach program aimed at the next generations. The theater has three stages: a 1000-seat hall for opera and ballet, a 480-seat playhouse for drama, and a small 320-seat space which serves more contemporary and experimental works. Past music directors have included such notable conductors as Silvio Varviso, Armin Jordan, and Michael Boder. 

"With the appointment of Erik Nielsen to the artistic leadership team of Theater Basel, we have a committed musician and conductor to support the singers and to be a bridge to the orchestra. Musical interpretation is equally as important as stage direction. An engaged and continuous dialogue between the musicians and the theater is a prerequisite for high artistic quality. Both institutions - the Basel Symphony Orchestra and Theater Basel - must grow together. We are therefore very pleased to gain an artistic authority such as Erik Nielsen to ensure the musical and artistic development of our productions."
(Andreas Beck, Intendant of Theater Basel from 2015/2016)

"Erik Nielsen brings all the prerequisites: He is a wonderful musician and virtuoso instrumentalist who makes music with the utmost dedication and passion. He is a team player - which is especially important in music theater. Through his years of experience as Kapellmeister of the Frankfurt Opera and his experience conducting in many different international opera houses, he is very familiar with the needs of an opera house."
(Laura Berman, Opera Director of Theater Basel from 2015/2016)

"The orchestra management and musicians of the Basel Symphony Orchestra welcome the appointment of a music director to Theater Basel and looks forward to working with Erik Nielsen. Having rehearsed Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin together last season, Erik Nielsen and the musicians have already gotten to know one another in an intensive way. They value his talents as a highly competent, prudent and sensitive musician and conductor. We are happy that he will perform in symphony concerts with us as well as music theater productions."
(Francis Theurillat, Director of the Sinfonieorchester Basel)

"At our first meeting Andreas Beck convinced me of his vision for Theatre Basel. We want to do away with the boundaries between divisions in this three-part house. The dancers, actors, singers and musicians should meet not only in the cafeteria, but in their work as well! In times when dance segments are being reduced and orchestras are merging, we have a great opportunity in Basel. We want the interdisciplinary possibilities that a three-part company can explore together. This does not mean that we have no need for specific opera programming. Future seasons are being planned with exciting titles, renowned directors and guests as well as some surprises. There will be opera premieres in the large house as well as performances throughout the city, proving that music theater can take place anywhere, not just in closed rooms."
(Erik Nielsen, Music Director of Theater Basel from 2016/2017)

Born in Iowa, USA in 1977, Erik Nielsen was Principal Conductor of the Frankfurt Opera from 2008 to 2012, and continued to work regularly with the company following the end of his tenure. After winning the 2009 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Prize, he began to guest conduct throughout Europe and America at both symphony orchestras and opera houses, including the Deutsche Oper Berlin, New York's Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Zurich Opera, Bregenz Festival in Austria, and Rome Opera, to name but a few. This season Mr. Nielsen leads the world premiere of Japanese composer Dai Fujikura's Solaris at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées with the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris, with subsequent performances in Lille and Lausanne. He also gives the world premiere of British composer Richard Ayres's Peter Pan for the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff and at London's Royal Opera House in summer 2015.