A distinguished figure in both the opera house and on the concert platform, Lionel Friend has recently made debuts with Opera Australia (Arabella) and Los Angeles Opera (Grendel) and conducted Mozart and Dallapiccola at Frankfurt Opera. In London he opened last season with a concert performance of Der fliegende Holländer at the Barbican Hall with London Lyric Opera and the Royal Philharmonic . His orchestral programmes also included Wagner, Hungarian repertoire in Budapest, Martinu and Elgar as well as concerts with the Nash Ensemble in London and Washington DC.
In March 2010 the premiere of David Blake's Scoring a Century, with libretto and directed by Keith Warner, was a great success. It is followed by his New Zealand debut in a production of Le nozze di Figaro. Future plans include productions of Tales of Hoffmann in Australia and Penderecki's Devils of Loudon in Poland.
Lionel Friend was educated at the Royal College of Music in London, where he won all the major conducting prizes. Following private study with Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt and Sir Colin Davis, he made his début in 1969 conducting LA TRAVIATA with Welsh National Opera, and until 1972, he was also the Conductor and Chorus Master for Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Glyndebourne Touring Opera, specializing in Mozart. For the next three years he was Kapellmeister at the Staatstheater in Kassel, Germany.
On returning to the UK, Lionel Friend held the position of Staff Conductor of the English National Opera from 1976 to 1989, conducting more than thirty different productions, including the world première of David Blake THE PLUMBER'S GIFT, and working with such producers as Jonathan Miller, Joachim Herz, Götz Friedrich, Harry Kupfer, Richard Jones, Keith Warner and Graham Vick. At ENO, he assisted conductors such as Charles Mackerras and Reginald Goodall, a highly influential musician with whom Friend collaborated on all his Wagner productions in London.
For two years Lionel Friend was part of Daniel Barenboim's team for THE RING
at the Bayreuth Festival and in 1992 also acted as his assistant with the Chicago Symphony in a major Mozart project. Until 1996, he was Music Director of New Sussex Opera. Their productions of DER FLIELIGENDE HOLLÄNDER
in 1988 and TANNHÄUSER
in 1990 both won substantial critical acclaim.
As Music Director of Nexus Opera, he prepared a highly praised CURLEW RIVER (Britten) for the Bath Festival, subsequent BBC Television broadcasts and a Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. He has conducted opera for BBC Radio (including three additional world premières), the Aldeburgh Festival, Radio France, Queen's Festival (Belfast), Netherlands Opera and Opera Northern Ireland. In 1994, Lionel Friend made his début at La Monnaie in Brussels, in charge of the European première of Jonathan Harvey INQUEST OF LOVE, returning there for UN BALLO IN MASCHERA and PETER GRIMES in following seasons. After a notably successful first appearance with The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1991, he rejoined them on their 1993 European Tour and performances at the Met in New York the following year.
In addition to opera and ballet, Lionel Friend has also given concerts and recorded with many of Europe's principal symphony orchestras and choruses, as well as all the BBC orchestras and many others in the UK. He first appeared with the BBC Symphony at the Royal Festival Hall in 1984. Following his début with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1994, he was immediately re-invited for further concerts; and at Simon Rattle's invitation, he conducted a number of programmes with the City of Birmingham Symphony. He has a long-term relationship with the Nash Ensemble both in concert and recordings (including works by Schoenberg, Debussy and Britten) and has recorded L'HISTOIRE DU SOLDAT with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Other recordings include discs with the BBC Symphony Orchestra on the Hyperion label and the BBC Scottish Symphony on Marco Polo. In 2007, he conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in an operatic programme with the baritone Bryn Terfel.
Other engagements have included Schubert FIERRABRAS for Buxton Festival in July 2000, RIGOLETTO for Teatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro, FALSTAFF for Opera North, LE NOZZE DI FIGARO in Belfast, LA FINTA GIARDINIERA in Holland and MADAMA BUTTERFLY in Nebraska. Recent premières have included Tavener LET'S BEGIN AGAIN at the Norwich Festival, Birtwistle PULSE SHADOWS, THE WOMAN AND THE HARE, Elliott Carter Mosaic (all on London's South Bank), a Ravel/Poulenc double-bill for Grange Park Opera and orchestral concerts in Germany, Belgium, Hungary and Australia.
He traveled to America's Portland Opera where he conducted Bizet PEARL FISHERS, returning to conduct THE TURN OF THE SCREW for Grange Park Opera in the UK. For English National Opera, London, he conducted SALOME in October 2005 and in June 2006, made his debut with Los Angeles Opera (GRENDEL by Elliot Goldenthal). In October 2007, Lionel Friend returned to Frankfurt Opera to conduct DIE ENTFÜHRUNG following his successful debut there in 2005 with a Dallapiccola double bill.
Lionel Friend has had considerable success in Australia. Having been Assistant Conductor for South Australia's RING CYCLES and PARSIFAL, he conducted a most successful GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG in 2003 at the Perth International Arts Festival, and in 2006, a highly acclaimed production of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE with Susan Bullock for West Australian Opera. Early in 2008, he made his début with Opera Australia conducting ARABELLA, and this success led to his nomination for a prestigious Helpmann Award for musical direction the same year.
Lionel Friend works regularly with students both in Britain and the US. In England and the US, he has conducted orchestras at the Royal Academy, Royal College, Trinity College of Music, Guildhall School of Music, Cambridge and York Universities and USC, Los Angeles. He is in continual demand to coach advanced singing students at the premier conservatoires of London, and in the USA, he has taken vocal masterclasses at the universities of Cincinnati and Lincoln, Nebraska. In 2003, he was appointed Conductor-in-Residence at the Birmingham Conservatoire.