James Conlon to be honored by Hebrew Union College

James Conlon

By Janelle Gelfand

Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), will award the 2013 Roger E. Joseph Prize to Maestro James Conlon at ordination ceremonies this Sunday at Congregation Emanu-El in New York City.

Rabbi Ellenson stated, “It is a privilege to present HUC-JIR’s highest honor, the Joseph Prize, to Maestro Conlon, in recognition of his efforts to raise public consciousness to the significance of works of composers whose lives and compositions were suppressed by the Nazi regime. The Orel Foundation, which he created, is dedicated to giving attention to these composers with the performance of their works.”

The first Joseph Prize was awarded in 1978, to Victor Kugler, who sheltered Anne Frank and her family. Over the past 35 years, the Joseph Prize recipients have included:

The people of Le Chambon, a Huguenot village in France which rescued thousands of Jewish children during the Holocaust; Rosa Parks, the “mother” of the American civil rights movement; Chaplain Mychal Judge and the City of New York Fire Department, for their heroic efforts on September 11th, 2001; Daniel Pearl, posthumously, and many others.

Conlon has been an ardent champion of composers who suffered at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. The Cincinnati May Festival will open next Friday with music by Alexander Zemlinsky, a Viennese composer who had Jewish blood and was forced to flee the Nazis, eventually coming to the United States where he died, unknown and neglected, in 1942.

Recently, Conlon’s contract was renewed by the May Festival, where he is the festival’s longest-tenured music director. He is also Music Director of Los Angeles Opera, where he recently led LA Opera’s first Ring Cycle, and the Ravinia Festival, summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

He has led more than 260 performances at the Metropolitan Opera since his first appearance there in 1976. He has appeared at Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Teatro del Opera di Roma. In the course of his career, he has conducted more than ninety operas and several hundred symphonic and choral works.

He is currently engaged in a three-year project honoring the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten, and will lead Britten’s “War Requiem” next weekend in Music Hall.