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A day in the life of 'Ring' conductor James Conlon

May 22, 2010 |  7:00 am

Conlon

Keeping up with James Conlon is no easy task. Just ask the people who work (and live) with him.

Here's how his assistant, Bill Gorin, puts it: "Working with James is like competing in a triathlon — it’s all about focus, flexibility, patience and above all endurance."

His wife, the singer and teacher Jennifer Ringo, recalls a time when Conlon's mother gave her a few words of advice: "His mother said to me at the end of her life, 'I just hope you have enough energy to keep up with him.'"

Conlon2 Conlon, who turned 60 this year, is in the midst of what is arguably the biggest and busiest season of his career. The conductor is leading the Los Angeles Opera's first full presentation of "The Ring of the Nibelung" starting Saturday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. It's a massive -- and at $32 million, very expensive -- production that is intended to be a landmark for the opera company.

Each cycle of the "Ring" requires 15 hours of conducting, which doesn't seem to faze Conlon in the least. Since his student days at The Juilliard School, Conlon has pursued his career with an obsessive and tireless focus. He has led companies in Paris, Rotterdam and Cologne, Germany. He has served as a guest conductor at the Metropolitan Opera numerous times.

We spent a day following Conlon as he raced from one appointment to another. As you can see from the photo at the top, Conlon prefers to take the stairs whenever possible, much to the dismay of his trailing entourage.

The full account of our day in the Conlon zone, from Sunday's Arts & Books section, is here.

-- David Ng

Photos: James Conlon, shown at bottom with opera singer Martin Gantner and L.A. Opera's Stacy Brightman.

Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

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