Introducing Omer Meir Wellber

Each year Glyndebourne Festival plays host to the debuts of new and emerging artists and 2014 is no different. Over the coming weeks we’re going to introduce you to some of the future stars making their UK or Glyndebourne debuts this summer.

First up is the talented young Israeli conductor, Omer Meir Wellber, who will make his UK debut conducting Eugene Onegin from 18 May. Mr Wellber appears in Festival 2014 thanks to support from Hugh and Catherine Stevenson through the Debut Artist Programme.

Introducing….Omer Meir Wellber

Omer Meir Wellber was born and raised in the Negev region of Israel where his parents settled after their marriage. He began his musical training at the age of five taking lessons in both piano and accordion though he could probably have turned his hand to any instrument. “My parents said that, at every family event, I would play on whatever musical instrument I happened to find.” At the age of 10 he began training in composition with Tania Taler and was introduced to the Israeli composer Michael Wolpe who became his composition teacher until 2004.

In his late teens, Wellber, like many young Israelis began his military service however after a year he found that he was not spending enough time on his music. “I had a meeting with the mental health officer and explained the situation to him,” he relates. “I brought with me piles of works that I’d composed, and he was in shock. As a kid in Russia he had played music and dreamed of being a composer, and when he saw he couldn’t make it he went to medical school instead. I met with him on a Thursday and the next Sunday I was released from the army, under the incompatibility clause, apparently. I don’t know what he did but I really want to stress that no one lied or pretended anything, not me or my parents. When you finish a day of work in the army at 5pm, there’s no way to fulfill your musical ambitions. I was discharged and went to study at the Jerusalem Music Academy, and I graduated with a master’s degree in 2006.”

Between 2008 and 2010, Wellber worked in close partnership with Daniel Barenboim at two of the most prestigious opera houses in the world, the Berliner Staatsoper and La Scala in Milan which he has described as ‘…like a dream come true. This collaboration constituted the most important event, not only of my musical career but also of my own intellectual life. I spent two and a half years next to one of the most important musicians in the history of music, and I learned so much.’

In 2010 his career took a huge leap when he was appointed to the role of musical director at the Valencia Opera House taking over from the famous American conductor, Lorin Maazel. During his tenure there he has conducted a varied repertoire including Aida, Eugene Onegin, L’elisir d’amore, Boris Godunov, Tosca, Rigoletto, Il Barbiere di Siviglia and I due Foscari with Plácido Domingo.

Wellber has a strong commitment to supporting charitable and educational causes. In 2013 he became a Good Will Ambassador for the Israeli-based international humanitarian organisation, Save a Child’s Heart, and he is also about to start work on a new project in Israel called Strings of Change – a music education programme for the Bedouins of the Negev region.

Speaking of his upcoming Glyndebourne Festival debut, Wellber says: “I am very excited to be making my debut at the Glyndebourne Festival and I am especially happy to conduct Eugene Onegin – an opera that is very dear to me. The message of this opera is very modern. Everything that happens unfolds in front of other people, so that none of the characters ever has a moment of intimacy. People are not quite free to say what they really mean as the judgement of society is determinant. When you start to read the opera in those terms, you begin to see its musical characteristics in a different light. I love Graham Vick’s production – one of the first opera DVDs that I saw – and I look forward to becoming part of it and working closely with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the singers and everyone else involved.”

Find out more about Omer Meir Wellber.