Viswa Subbaraman named Artistic Director

Photo by Mark Frohna

Photo by Mark Frohna

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Texas native with global experience looks to start new conversations with Milwaukee audiences

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Skylight Music Theatre today announced that Viswa Subbaraman (VISH wa  Soo ba RAH man), artistic director and founder of Opera Vista in Houston and former assistant conductor of the Orchestre National de France, will become the company’s next artistic director. Subbaraman will start his new position with the 2013-14 season.

“Skylight has an outstanding national reputation for doing top-notch work, and I am excited to be joining such an inspiring and vibrant organization,” Subbaraman said. “To have this opportunity to shape the artistic vision of one of the country’s premier musical theatre companies is a true honor. I look forward to working with Skylight, its artists and audiences – as well as Milwaukee’s diverse arts community.”

Amy Jensen, Skylight’s managing director, said Subbaraman will bring a new vision – along with some surprises – to Skylight, which celebrates its 54th anniversary in 2012.

“Viswa’s ideas for creating memorable musical theatre experiences and building new audiences are innovative and exhilarating,” she said. “He has a distinct knack for embracing the future while honoring the past. We think our longtime patrons will continue to love Skylight with Viswa at the artistic helm, and those who haven’t had the chance to get to know us will find his vision has a place for them, too.”

Subbaraman, who is 35 and grew up in West Texas, founded Opera Vista, Houston’s innovative contemporary opera company, in 2005. At Opera Vista, Subbaraman’s accomplishments have included the world premiere of James Norman’s “Wake…,” the Texas premiere and historic New Orleans premiere of Amy Beach’s “Cabildo” and the creation of the annual Vista Competition for new opera. He was named one of the Houston Press’ 100 Most Creative People for 2012 and received the Houston Press’ MasterMind Award in 2010.

Subbaraman was assistant conductor of the Orchestre National de France in Paris from 2002 to 2005 and served as visiting assistant/cover conductor of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris. He has been featured as guest conductor with orchestras worldwide, including the Beethoven Orchester in Bonn, Germany; the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.; the Bombay Chamber Orchestra in Bombay, India; and the Thames Philharmonia in London. His work includes both opera and musical theatre, including “The Silent Prince” (world premiere opera), “Wake…” (world premiere opera), “Guys & Dolls,” “Into the Woods” and more.

“The fact that Skylight does everything, from opera to musical theatre to operettas and revues, I really find that intriguing,” Subbaraman said. “One of my goals is to develop a conversation with the audience over the course of a season. I want every single production we do during a season to continue a dialogue, whether it’s about heroism, revolution, fairy tales or some other part of the human experience. My hope is that if you come to each of the shows, we will further advance that discussion about what it is to be human, interact with each other and go through our lives.”

Subbaraman has a bachelor’s degree in music and biology from Duke University. He has a master’s degree in music performance and orchestral conducting from Texas Tech University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. He traveled to France as a Fulbright Grant recipient in 2002, and was granted the first grant renewal in the history of Fulbright France. He has attended and led a number of music symposia and clinics in the United States and abroad and has earned numerous awards and honors. He was a delegate to the 2010 Asia21 Summit and has been selected to participate in the 2012 Indiaspora.

“To have someone with Viswa’s impressive credentials, global experience and boundless energy join Skylight is a tremendous accomplishment for our company and for Milwaukee theatre-goers as a whole,” Jensen said. “As people get to know Viswa, we know the enthusiasm we have here at Skylight will spread.”

Skylight’s current artistic director, Bill Theisen, announced in January 2011 that he would step down after the 2012-13 season, his ninth with the company. Theisen was an advisor in the search process for his successor.

“I am thrilled that Viswa Subbaraman will be taking over as the artistic leader of Skylight Music Theatre,” Theisen said. “He brings a youthful perspective and many bold and exciting ideas that will contribute to the artistic excellence that Skylight audiences have come to expect and appreciate. His vision and creativity will be a welcome addition to the Milwaukee arts scene, and I feel confident that Viswa will open new doors by reaching out to everyone in our community.”

Subbaraman will stay in Houston through Opera Vista’s 2012-13 season before moving to Milwaukee. He will visit often as he gets to know the community and begins to put together his first season as Skylight’s artistic director. Skylight’s 2013-14 season will be announced in the spring.

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