• William Struhs

Emmanuel Villaume has chosen Memorial Day to drop a bombshell. At a Spoleto Festival board meeting this morning, the Christel DeHaan Music Director for Opera & Orchestra announced he would step down from his position at the end of the current season.

“I love this Festival deeply,” he told the board, “and I have always said that if I could not give the organization what I consider to be the necessary time, I would step down from my position.”

Villaume’s schedule is crammed with work as Chief Conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, and gigs as an internationally revered guest conductor. Something had to give, and that something is Spoleto.

A core component of the festival’s classical concerts, Maestro Villaume has been the festival’s Music Director for Opera & Orchestra for nine years. He has an association with Spoleto going back to 1990 with a production of Le Nozze di Figaro. General Director Nigel Redden is optimistic about Villaume returning as a guest conductor in the future.

The Maestro’s influence on Spoleto should not be underestimated. The Festival Orchestra is considered one of the country’s best, its high pedigree maintained by a strict and exhaustive auditioning program. The Spoleto organizers will be hard-pressed to find a replacement who’s as much of a draw, and as dedicated to the festival as Villaume.

There are two chances to catch him in his final year as Music Director: tonight conducting performances of Ravel and Strauss, and June 6 for Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner. Both concerts are at the Gaillard Auditorium.

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