Julian Smith was Head of Music at Welsh National Opera for 21 years, during which time he conducted nearly 40 operas for the company, specializing in Puccini, Verdi and the bel canto school, but also including operas by Handel and Britten. During this time he conducted also for Scottish Opera, Glyndebourne Touring Opera, Opera Australia, the Vancouver Opera, Icelandic Opera and Oper Zuid. Other orchestras he conducted included the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the London Sinfonietta, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Julian has conducted concerts featuring many distinguished singers, including Bryn Terfel, Renée Fleming, Dennis O’Neill and Sherrill Milnes. He has conducted frequently for television, and has recorded recital albums with the orchestra of Welsh National Opera.
For WNO Julian conducted the new productions of Bellini’s I Puritani, Norma and La Sonnambula, as well as Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and L’elisir d’amore. He is known as an expert on Puccini, and has conducted all the major Puccini operas: Manon Lescaut, La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, La fanciulla del West and Turandot. He conducted the Baz Lurhmann production of La Bohème for Opera Australia (also on DVD). For WNO Julian conducted Handel’s Rodelinda (also televised by the BBC) and the same composer’s Tamerlano, which was also given at the Edinburgh Festival. Julian’s WNO performances of Cavalleria rusticana and I Pagliacci were recorded for television, as was his performance of Tosca.
At the invitation of the Ricordi publishing house, Julian Smith edited and reconstructed the first version of Madama Butterfly, restoring many sections replaced by Puccini. The version was subsequently performed in Venice, Paris, NewYork, and by Opera North in Britain. It has also been recorded.
Julian Smith has been associated with the biennial Cardiff Singer of the World Competition since its inception in 1983. He was one of the official accompanists for the first three competitions, and then was appointed Music Advisor to the competition. Since 1992 he has undertaken a world tour every two years, to audition prospective competitors and select the 25 to be invited to Cardiff.
During the past few seasons, Julian conducted Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci for WNO, and returned to the company for Tosca and Madama Butterfly. In Autumn 2005 Julian conducted La Traviata for New Zealand Opera. Other productions for the 2006/07 season include Lucia, and Tosca throughout Great Britain. Maestro Smith made his San Francisco Opera debut, conducting Madama Butterfly in the Fall of 2007, and continued the season with performances of Britten’s Turn of the Screw in Italy. This past season, Maestro Smith has returned to performances in Great Britain, Tenerife, and in Italy.