Dalia Stasevska to become conductor with the BBC Symphony

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

Image source, Jarmo Katila
Image caption, Dalia Stasevska: "When the mainstream was listening to the Spice Girls, my 'punk' was opera"

Dalia Stasevska has become the first woman to be given a conducting position with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

The 33-year-old, who has only been conducting for four years, will be the ensemble's principal guest conductor, a role that has been vacant since 2006.

Praised as a "brilliant musician" who provides "subtle guidance", she made her debut with the BBCSO in May 2018.

Former guest conductors include Jiří Bělohlávek and Sakari Oramo, who both went on to lead the orchestra.

The Finnish musician, in a statement, said she was "thrilled" to be joining the London-based group.

"From when we first met in May 2018, I felt directly a mutual connection with the musicians.

"The BBCSO is a very inspiring, energetic orchestra with a huge range of colours in its sound, and I am looking forward to working together over the next few years, exploring a wide range of music."

Stasevska is the second woman to hold a titled position with a BBC orchestra - joining the BBC National Orchestra of Wales's Xian Zhang, who was appointed in 2015. Sweden's Sofi Jeannin is also the chief conductor of the BBC Singers.

Media caption, Dalia Stasevska talks conducting, Bartok, and punk music

Born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1984, Stasevska moved to Finland at the age of five, and started studying violin when she was 10.

But it was her first encounter with opera that set her on the path to conducting.

"I was around 13 when I first heard Madame Butterfly and it changed the world for me," she told Radio 3's In Tune earlier this month.

"I became addicted to the music of Puccini - and my biggest dream from that point was to play with an orchestra."

She went on to study at the famed Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, where she was stunned to see a fellow female student conducting the orchestra.

"It never crossed my mind until then that I could do that," she added, "because there was no female conductors around.

"It's a pretty new thing, still, and people tend to forget it. Ten years ago, the world was very different.

"Then I basically just found some kind of courage in myself and asked [Finnish conductor] Jorma Panula, 'Could I try that too?' and he wrote a number on the back of a shop receipt he had in his pocket, and said 'call me'. And that was the first masterclass I took."

After graduating in 2012, Stasevska conducted the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Finnish National Opera and Gothenburg Symphony, and last year's Nobel Peace Prize concert.

She has built a reputation for conducting a wide range of music from core orchestral repertoire to new and contemporary music; but her chief passion remains opera.

"When the mainstream was listening to the Spice Girls, my 'punk' was opera," she told the BBC in 2018.

Paul Hughes, director of the BBCSO, welcomed Stasevska to the company, saying: "She will bring an extraordinary musicianship that speaks directly from the heart to musicians and audiences alike, and her appointment ushers in an exciting new chapter in the orchestra's life."

She makes her debut with the orchestra in her new role at the Proms in July.

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