Dr. Charles Barber
Conductor & Artistic Director
Conductor and City Opera Vancouver artistic director Charles Barber began piano at six, violin and trumpet at ten, at age 14 wrote a piano concerto, and at 15 conducted an orchestra. The following year he wrote his first film score, and his first musical.
He has since earned a Bachelor of Music, University of Victoria; Master of Arts, Stanford; and, Doctor of Musical Arts, Stanford. His graduate work concentrated on the music of Alexander Ziloti, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalila-symphonie.
Dr. Barber’s teachers include Carlos Kleiber, Andor Toth, George Corwin (conducting); Jaroslav Karlovsky, Bernard Zaslav (viola); Boris Zarry, Paul Kling (violin); Frona Colquhoun (piano); Leonard Ratner (analysis); George Houle (early music); and Marty Paich (arranging).
His teacher Carlos Kleiber is one of the legends of modern conducting. Dr. Barber is one of only three persons known to have studied with him, and did so from 1989 to Mr. Kleiber’s death in 2004. Barber also received more than 200 letters, faxes, postcards and cartoons from Mr. Kleiber during the course of their long correspondence.
In September 2009 he participated in a long-form BBC Radio 3 essay on the life and art of Carlos Kleiber, together with three others who knew him well: Plácido Domingo, Christine Lemke-Matvey, and Sir Peter Jonas. This unique documentary is available at www.mediafire.com/?wn4lnykyqkk
Dr. Barber’s operatic and concert repertoire numbers some 220 works, and includes theatre music of Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, Gilbert & Sullivan, Menotti, major work of Haydn, Handel, and principal composers of the Silver Age in Russia. Dr. Barber’s mentors in opera were Carlos Kleiber and Sir Charles Mackerras; his apprenticeship included Semele and Der Rosenkavalier (San Francisco Opera), and Makropoulos Case and Otello (Metropolitan Opera).
Dr Barber has conducted in Canada and the United States, and on tour in South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Morocco and Spain. His popular repertoire includes Fledermaus, Merry Widow, Countess Maritza, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Most Happy Fella, Fanny, Merrily We Roll Along, Orpheus in the Underworld, Man of La Mancha, Crazy for You, and Kiss Me Kate.
For ten years he served as student and assistant to legendary Los Angeles composer and arranger Marty Paich, working on record projects with Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon and Mel Tormé, and on the films Prince of Tides, Alive, Flatliners, Grand Canyon, Dave, The Fugitive, and Wyatt Earp. Dr. Barber has also conducted for Stan Getz, Dan Hicks, Weslia Whitfield, Francis Ford Coppola, and Sarah Vaughn.
He has been published by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Greenwood Press, and Carnegie Hall, and authored or co-authored more than 90 entries in New Grove 2000. His book Lost in the Stars: The Forgotten Musical Life of Alexander Siloti, was published to wide critical acclaim by Rowman and Littlefield in 2002. Concurrently, through Carl Fischer, he released The Alexander Siloti Collection: Editions, Transcriptions, and Arrangements for Piano Solo.
His latest book, Corresponding With Carlos: A Biography of Carlos Kleiber, was released on 25 November 2011, coming in at 150,000 words, with 689 footnotes and 20pp of photographs. It has now gone to its third printing. Barber also contributed the essay on Kleiber appearing in the forthcoming edition of New Grove.
Dr. Barber served as Music Advisor to the BBC in its award-winning film documentary set, The Art of Conducting.
Dr. Barber has also served as producer to Naxos Records, the world’s largest classical company. In 1997 he created American Classics, a series that has now over 300 CDs in release. Ten years later he researched and proposed Canadian Classics, a series that launched on 24 September 2011, and will cover Canadian art music from 1800 to the present.
In 2006, Barber conceived City Opera’s first commission, Pauline, with an original story and libretto by Margaret Atwood. In 2012, he conducted the world premiere, in final workshop, of the new opera Fallujah, with music by Tobin Stokes and libretto by Heather Raffo.
“I never write letters of recommendation, so this is an exception. Charles Barber is a scholar and a conductor who adores and understands music. We have become friends, and he pretends to believe that I have taught him something.”
~~~ Carlos Kleiber, 1997