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Introducing Emily Nebel, Assistant Concertmaster

by Rebecca Oliverio

One of our more recently appointed members of the orchestra is Assistant Concertmaster Emily Nebel. This role is especially important because of its leadership demands and, as you will read, Emily has quite a bit of experience in the opera world. She took some time to answer a few questions for our first issue of the 2023-24 season. Welcome, Emily!

R: Where are you originally from?

E: I was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona, not far from Phoenix.

R: Where were you before coming to Lyric?

E: About nine years ago I moved to Europe, pursuing further studies in Frankfurt and working with the opera orchestra there. Around that time I met my now husband at a festival in the UK, and we made the most of long distance by turning work visits to Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands into mini-holidays (for one of us, anyway). In 2018 I made the move to London, where I obtained an Advanced Diploma and started working as a guest leader and co-leader with opera orchestras around the UK. I recently had the opportunity to lead a production of the Marriage of Figaro at the Royal Opera House which was a thrill. I also worked with Opera North and Welsh National Opera, both of which regularly take their productions on tour across the country. That was an exciting way to become acquainted with the different venues and audiences in towns I might not have otherwise had the chance to visit. Alongside opera and other orchestral leading, I’ve gotten to collaborate in chamber music settings around the UK and Europe with a lot of friends and colleagues whom I really admire. I’ve also gone on some unforgettable tours, most recently to South America and Spain with the early music group Arcangelo. I feel fortunate to have had such experiences and can’t wait to tap into the thriving musical scene at the Lyric and throughout the city of Chicago.

R: Where did you first encounter opera?

E: I was introduced to opera at Rice where I did my Master’s, playing in productions of Handel’s Ariodante and Britten’s Albert Herring, both of which I really enjoyed. My love of the repertoire grew during my time working at Oper Frankfurt; since then, I've been a part of many different productions, from small-scale serenatas by Handel and Hasse performed on gut strings to Strauss’ epic Die Frau Ohne Schatten. One particularly memorable experience took place at Staatstheater Darmstadt, where I was acting concertmaster back in 2016. We performed a work by Georg Friedrich Haas called Koma, almost all of which is in pitch-black darkness and must be memorized - a challenging but effective concept!

R: What opera are you most looking forward to playing this season?

E: Although Janacek’s music is notoriously difficult to play, I’m most looking forward to Jenufa. Having played The Makropulos Affair last season as well as some of his chamber music, I’ve found that the harmonic language of his music is so rich and the storytelling so engaging that one can’t help but be completely swept up by it.

R: Which opera would you like to play in the future?

E: I have always been taken by Britten’s music. Pieces such as Peter Grimes and Owen Wingrave are at the top of my operatic bucket list, alongside Tosca and Madama Butterfly which have somehow both eluded me thus far.

R: Is there anything about the city of Chicago that you are excited about?

E: I’m looking forward to exploring the many different neighborhoods of Chicago. Some of my family is based here so I’ve enjoyed visiting in the past, but it’s become clear to me that I’ve only just scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. More than anything, however, I’m excited to start a new chapter back in the US after many years abroad.

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