Artistic Director of Opera Carolina
|Residence||Charlotte, North Carolina|
|Alma mater||Carnegie Mellon University|
|Occupation||Opera conductor and Administrator|
|Agent||Royal Artists Management (Italy), Uzan International Artist (USA).|
James Meena (born 1951) is an American conductor and opera administrator. Formerly the General Director and Principal Conductor of Toledo Opera in Ohio, since 2000 he has been the General Director and Principal Conductor of Opera Carolina, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Early life and education
Meena was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of V. Rev. James C. Meena Antiochian Orthodox a priest and musician who studied composition and wrote three hymnals as well as arranging and translating Tchaikovsky's Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom into English. He spent his childhood in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh before returning to Cleveland when his father became pastor of the St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church there. Meena did his undergraduate studies at Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1973, and then taught music for three years in Cleveland's high schools as well as singing in the Cleveland Symphony Chorus. He studied conducting with Robert Page, the chorus's Director and a professor at Carnegie Mellon University where Meena received his Master of Fine Arts in conducting in 1978. When Page became Director of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh in September 1979, he hired Meena as his assistant. He also studied conducting with Thomas Mihalak, who was Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony for six seasons; the opera conductor Rudolph Fellner; and Boris Halip, a former associate concertmaster and conductor of the Bolshoi Ballet who had emigrated to Cleveland and with whom Meena also studied violin. Meena is also known for conducting completely from memory.
Meena made his professional debut in 1980, conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony and Mendelssohn Choir in performances of Haydn’s The Creation. His professional opera debut was in 1983 (Mozart’s The Magic Flute) with Pittsburgh Opera, where he was Associate Conductor. His apprentice years in Pittsburgh included work as Music Director of the Three Rivers Training Orchestra and McKeesport Symphony, and director of the Pennsylvania Opera Festival, which has since become the Pittsburgh Opera young artist program. In 1986 he was appointed Artistic Director of Toledo Opera, making his company debut with Carmen, and in 1988 he was appointed Resident Conductor of the Toledo Symphony, where he conducted Classics, Mainly Mozart, Community Concerts and Symphony Pops concerts. Concurrently, in 1997 he was appointed Conductor of the Cleveland/San Jose Ballet, with which he conducted more than twenty performances each season, including the annual Nutcracker production. Meena was appointed General Director & Principal Conductor of Opera Carolina in 2000.
He has also maintained an active career as guest conductor of opera and concerts in the United States and abroad, having conducted the New York City Opera, the National Symphony ROC, the KBS Symphony Orchestra (Seoul), the Cairo Philharmonic, Orchestra Regionale Toscana (Italy) and the orchestra of Teatro Massimo Bellini in Sicily, as well as L’Opera de Montreal, Portland Opera, Washington Opera as well as the opera companies in Modena (Italy), Livorno (Italy), Lucca (Italy), Ravenna (Italy), Pisa (Italy), Phoenix, Sarasota, and Edmonton, Ottawa and Winnipeg (Canada) where he led the world premiere performances of Victor Davies’ The Transit of Venus, which was broadcast nationally over the CBC. His performances of Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Gounod’s Faust and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin have been recorded and broadcast over National Public Radio's World of Opera.
- Charles Duvernoy: Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 3 (world premiere recording), François Devienne: Première Sonate in B flat, Jean Francaix: Tema con variazioni – Collaborative Arts Chamber Orchestra, James Meena (conductor). Koch International Classics CD 37186-2.
- Press, Jaques Cattell (ed.) (1985). Who's Who in American Music: Classical, Volume 2, p. 395. R.R. Bowker Co. ISBN 0-8352-2074-5
- Macron, Mary Haddad (1979). Arab-Americans & Their Communities of Cleveland, p. 217. Cleveland State University
- Apone, Carl (12 August 1982). "Concert Winds Up Opera Workshop". The Pittsburgh Press
- Opera Carolina.Biography of James Meena
- Hall, Sarah (23 October 2008). "Review: Opera Carolina's Faust is a devil of a good time". Salisbury, North Carolina: Salisbury Post.
Then it occurred to me that I hadn't seen Meena turn any pages. I leaned slightly forward to see if what I thought was indeed true. He was conducting this lengthy work by memory. Once I had that realization, I found it hard to take my eyes away from Meena. He was confidently and effortlessly giving every tempo, cue, dynamic and often even mouthing the words with the singers. I was so fascinated by his conducting, it took the devil himself to draw my attention back to the stage.
- Opera Lively (2 March 2012). "Interview with Maestro James Meena".
I memorize all my scores, this is how I was taught. Every score is memorized, and usually – and this is what has been hard for me – I memorize the libretto first.
- Kaczmarczyk, Jeffrey (28 March 2015). "Electrifying Tchaikovsky, elegant Mozart in Grand Rapids Symphony concert". Michigan Live Media Group.
Gorgeous woodwind playing and powerful brass passages marked the performance, which Meena led from memory, conducting with roundhouse gestures from his right hand and much less action from his left.
- "Manitoba Opera Transit of Venus". Winnipeg, Manitoba: Manitoba Opera. 2007.
- Gray, Lisa (25 August 2010). "NPR World of Opera to Broadcast Opera Carolina's Faust". Davidson, North Carolina: WDAV.
- Headington, Christopher (July 1995). "Review: "Duvernoy Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 3 (Koch International Classics)". Gramophone Magazine
- Articles and interviews
- "Conversation with James Meena" from the February 2008 issue of Charlotte Magazine
- "Q & A With James Meena" from the October 2010 issue of Charlotte Magazine
- "Innovative Opera Carolina Presents Carmen", North Carolina Arts Council, 2010
- "Interview with Maestro James Meena", Opera Lively, 2012
- Opera Carolina's Madama Butterfly interview and discussion broadcast on the program, Charlotte Talks (Radio WFAE), 11 January 2012
- Audio of James Meena conducting a concert of romantic songs and arias on worldofopera.org
- Video with James Meena talking about opera on operacarolina.org
- James Meena Interview broadcast on News 14 Carolina