Lawrence Edelson is highly respected not only as a critically acclaimed stage director, but also as a visionary company leader who has created programs in the areas of artist mentorship and new works development that have served as models of innovation for opera companies around the country.
As a Director, Lawrence’s work has been praised for the ability to fuse vivid story telling with deeply expressive imagery. He has been praised by Opera Now magazine as doing a “splendid job of making (opera) relevant and understandable.” His productions have been called “ingenious” and “imaginative” by Opera News, and “stunningly touching and entertaining” by the Washington Post. These diverse productions have included the American Premiere of Telemann’s Orpheus for Wolf Trap Opera, Philip Glass’s Hydrogen Jukebox for Fort Worth Opera, La Traviata for The Minnesota Opera, Il Barbiere di Siviglia for Hawaii Opera Theater, The Cradle Will Rock, The Consul, Il Postino, La Cenerentola, and H.M.S. Pinafore for Opera Saratoga, Carmen for Toledo Opera, Little Women for Michigan Opera Theatre, a double-bill of La Serva Padrona and Trouble in Tahiti for the Adler Fellows of San Francisco Opera at Opera Santa Barbara, the New York premiere of Fauré’s rarely produced Pénélope for Manhattan School of Music, Cosí fan tutte for Boston University’s Opera Institute at the Huntington Theater, and the World Premiere of The ToyMaker off-Broadway as part of the New York Musical Theater Festival. He was a guest member on the directing staff of New York City Opera, where he restaged Little Women twice: for the work’s Lincoln Center premiere, and for the company’s tour to Japan. From 2008 to 2012, Lawrence was also faculty member at the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv, where he led seminars on American opera, and directed original productions of Adamo’s Little Women, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Massenet’s Werther, Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
Before focusing on Directing and Arts Management, Lawrence enjoyed a performing career in both ballet and opera. He studied voice and musicology at The University of Ottawa, and dance at The Joffrey Ballet School in New York. As a dancer, he performed with Boston Ballet, Ballet West, and BalletMet Columbus. He has choreographed for ballet and opera companies around the country. As a singer, he appeared in opera, oratorio and musical-theater internationally.
A self-described “arts-entrepreneur,” Edelson is a successful and creative leader with a proven track record of leading non-profit and for-profit companies, and of balancing artistic idealism and fiscal realism. In the for-profit sector, Lawrence founded Pro Musica Tours while still a student at the University of Ottawa. The company has become one of New York City’s most highly respected cultural tourism operators, specializing in educational arts travel programs for student groups. The company features three distinct product lines: Broadway and Beyond, Musical Treasures of New York, and Destination Dance. Lawrence completed his Master’s Degree in Performing Arts Administration at New York University, authoring his thesis Opera: The Irrelevant Art: Uniting Marketing and Organizational Strategy to Combat the Depopularization of Opera in the United States. He has consulted on projects for Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), New York City Opera, Opera Orchestra of New York, MCC Theater, and on the cultural development of Lower Manhattan for New York City council member Alan Gerson.
In the opera field, Lawrence is best known as the founder of American Lyric Theater (ALT). He has been responsible for assembling ALT’s world-renowned artistic staff, and creating the first full-time program for emerging opera composers and librettists in the United States: The Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP). As Producing Artistic Director, he coordinates the diverse artistic programs of ALT, including The CLDP, commissioning of new works, and co-production relationships. A tireless advocate for emerging artists and the diversification of audiences for opera, Lawrence continues to forge collaborations with opera companies across the country. Recent projects at ALT include the development of The Long Walk (Beck/Fleischmann), which premiered at Opera Saratoga in 2015; JFK (Little/Vavrek), which premiered at Fort Worth Opera in 2016; Monkey and Francine in the City of Tigers (Sankaram/Johnston), which premiered at Houston Grand Opera/HGOCo in 2018; and Why is Eartha Kitt Trying to Kill Me? (Smith/Johnston), which premiered at Urban Arias in 2018.
In January 2014, Edelson was appointed the Artistic and General Director of Opera Saratoga, a position he now holds concurrently with his leadership of American Lyric Theater. During his tenure at Opera Saratoga, Lawrence has been responsible for rebranding the organization; expanding the the company’s young artist program and creating new mentorship opportunities for conductors and directors; diversifying the repertoire presented; and increasing community engagement and education programs year-round. Since joining Opera Saratoga Lawrence has been responsible for significantly increasing the company’s artistic profile nationally, while simultaneously increasing income in all areas including an increase in individual giving by over 250%, and an increase in ticket sales by over 60%.