The passing of Music Director Emeritus Stewart Robertson has deeply saddened The Glimmerglass Festival community. Robertson’s connection to Glimmerglass was deeply rooted in the sense of creative fulfillment and purpose he felt within the Festival’s unique environment. His long tenure at Glimmerglass was characterised by his commitment to artistic excellence and dedication to fostering creativity and talent within the operatic community. He passed away on February 12, 2024, at the age of 75.

Born on May 22, 1948, in Glasgow, Scotland, Robertson’s extraordinary musical journey began at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Bristol University. He honed his skills in piano and conducting under the guidance of esteemed mentors such as Denis Matthews, Otmar Suitner of the Mozarteum Academy, and Hans Swarowsky at the Vienna Academy.

A renowned conductor, Robertson’s career was punctuated by remarkable achievements and contributions to the musical world. Notably, he became the youngest conductor to lead a performance at the Cologne Opera, a testament to his prodigious talent. Robertson’s artistry was celebrated throughout his career on various platforms, including broadcasts for the New York City Opera on “Live from Lincoln Center.” He also shared his knowledge as a writer and lecturer on music for broadcasts on National Public Radio, the Public Broadcasting Service, the BBC, and Swiss-Italian radio and television.

Early in his career, Robertson served as the Music Director of the Zurich Ballet and the Scottish Opera Touring Company. He took up residency in the United States on appointment to the Hidden Valley Music Seminars. Subsequently, he was also the Music Director of the San Bernardino Symphony and the Santa Fe Symphony and conductor of the San Jose Symphony Youth Orchestra. He led opera performances at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Norwegian National Opera, Detroit Opera, Opéra de Montréal, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Opera Philadelphia, among others. 

From 1998 to 2009, he served as the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Florida Grand Opera in Miami, further solidifying his reputation as a visionary leader in the opera world. Additionally, he was conductor for the Atlantic Classical Orchestra in Florida from 2005 to 2015 and served as the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Opera Omaha from 2005 to 2008.

At Glimmerglass, Robertson’s impact was immeasurable. He joined the Glimmerglass family in 1988 as Music Director, a title he held until he retired from the Festival in 2006. His deep appreciation for the works of Britten and Mozart and his dedication to showcasing lesser-known musical gems enriched the Festival’s repertoire. His unwavering support for living composers led to the world premieres of works by esteemed artists such as William Schuman and David Carlson. The triple-bill Central Park by Robert Beaser, Deborah Drattell, and Michael Torke was Emmy-nominated for its PBS broadcast. Robertson’s commercial recordings include two Glimmerglass productions by contemporary composers, Richard Rodney Bennett’s The Mines of Sulphur, which was nominated for a Grammy Award, and Stephen Hartke’s The Greater Good.

Also among his many accomplishments at Glimmerglass was formulating the Festival’s programming template, which features a mix of standard operas, Baroque works, and contemporary pieces. This formula contributed to the Festival’s distinction and unique place in today’s opera world.

Robertson’s passion for education—for mentoring and nurturing young talent—was another cornerstone of his legacy. He was instrumental in founding the Young American Artists Program. Since its founding in 1988, the program has grown to international acclaim and launched the careers of countless leading artists. Today, the program—now known as the Young Artists Program—accepts opera singers, musical theater singers and dancers, coaches and accompanists, conductors, and stage directors from across the globe. 

Robertson’s years-long partnership with Paul Kellogg, Glimmerglass Artistic Director Emeritus, marked by mutual respect and complementary talents, laid the groundwork for Glimmerglass’s growth and international reputation. His retirement from Glimmerglass alongside Kellogg reflected their enduring partnership and shared vision, underscoring the bond they had cultivated over the years.

Stewart Robertson’s impact on The Glimmerglass Festival and the wider opera community cannot be overstated. His musical brilliance, support for living composers, profound love for the art form, and inspiring dedication to young talent will be forever appreciated.