David Charles Abell

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David Charles Abell
David Charles Abell conducting at Glimmerglass Opera, 2008
David Charles Abell conducting at Glimmerglass Opera, 2008
Background information
Birth nameDavid Charles Abell
Born1958 (age 62–63)
Jacksonville, North Carolina, U.S.
GenresSymphonic music, opera, musical theatre
Occupation(s)Conductor, musicologist
Years active1982–present

David Charles Abell (born 1958) is an American orchestral conductor active in symphonic music, opera and musical theatre. Known for his television appearances worldwide as conductor of the Les Misérables 10th[1] and 25th[2] Anniversary concerts, he is recognised as an authoritative interpreter of the musicals of Stephen Sondheim[3][4] and maintains an active international opera career.

Early years and education[edit]

Born in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Abell was raised in the Philadelphia and Chicago areas, studying viola, piano, organ, trumpet and voice. As a member of the Berkshire Boy Choir, he sang in the 1971 world premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Mass at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The experience sparked his interest in theatrical compositions and fuelled a lasting passion for dramatic music.[5]

In 1976, Abell enrolled at Yale University, where his teachers included John Mauceri and Rob Kapilow. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Robert D. Levin at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau before returning to Yale to complete his B.A. in 1981. The following year, Abell participated in the inaugural Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute summer school, studying with Bernstein and Daniel Lewis. He continued his postgraduate training from 1983 to 1985 at the Juilliard School, under Jorge Mester and Sixten Ehrling.

One of Leonard Bernstein's last protégés, he assisted the composer-conductor on many projects during the 1980s and helped prepare definitive editions of Bernstein's musical theatre scores.[5]

Early professional life[edit]

Abell made his professional debut conducting Bernstein's Mass at Berlin's Deutschlandhalle in 1982. The following year he deputised at short notice for John Mauceri conducting Britten's The Turn of the Screw at Washington National Opera. In 1985 he made his New York City Opera debut conducting The Mikado. Abell led San Francisco Opera's 1989 national tour of Carmen and was conductor for City Opera's national tour of The Barber of Seville in 1994.


Since moving to London in 1996, Abell has conducted orchestras in the UK and abroad, including The Hallé, City of Birmingham, Bournemouth, London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Seattle Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Iceland Symphony and West Australian Symphony orchestras. He is a regular guest conductor with the BBC Concert Orchestra, with whom he has appeared five times at the Proms.[6][7]


In recent years, Abell has made debuts at Cincinnati Opera (Porgy and Bess), Lyric Opera of Kansas City (Silent Night), Opera Philadelphia (Die Zauberflöte), and Hawaii Opera Theatre (Eugene Onegin).

Musical theatre[edit]

The driving force behind Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday celebration at the 2010 BBC Proms,[6] Abell subsequently conducted the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables at the O2 Arena, which has been seen worldwide on television and released on DVD. Both the 25th and 10th Anniversary concerts have been extensively broadcast by PBS to boost fund-raising efforts.[8]

Abell was Music Director of the West End production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies from its opening in March 2010 until March 2011.[9][10] Between 2011 and 2014, he conducted the French premieres of four Sondheim musicals: Follies at the Opéra de Toulon, Sweeney Todd[11][12] and Sunday in the Park with George[13] and Into the Woods[14] at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

Abell conducted London's Laurence Olivier Awards ceremony from 2011 to 2014. He has appeared twice at English National Opera, conducting Sweeney Todd with Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson in 2015 and Carousel with Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins in 2017.


A regular guest conductor with the Philly Pops since his debut in 2013, Abell released a Christmas CD with them in 2015[15] and was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the organization in 2017.[16] He was named Music Director and Principal Conductor in February, 2020.[17] He made his Boston Pops debut in 2016 with an all-Gershwin concert.

Music scholarship[edit]

As a musicologist, Abell has helped restore clarity to musical theatre scores affected by accretions of revival productions and poorly preserved source materials, notably West Side Story.[5] Along with pianist and musicologist Seann Alderking, he edited a complete edition of Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate, published in 2014.[18] It is one of the first American musicals to be published in a critical edition.[6]

Career highlights[edit]

Year Organization Title Notes
2018 Hawaii Opera Theatre Eugene Onegin dir. Tomer Zvulun
BBC Symphony Orchestra Bernstein Centenary Concert including Serenade, Songfest
2017 Opera Philadelphia Die Zauberflöte dir. Barrie Kosky
English National Opera Carousel with Alfie Boe, Katherine Jenkins
2016 Cincinnati Opera Die Fledermaus with Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Opera Orlando One Voice Orlando Opera gala benefitting Pulse shooting charities
Boston Pops Orchestra Gershwin Celebration Boston Pops debut
2015 Opera North Kiss Me, Kate based on 2014 Critical Edition
Lyric Opera of Kansas City Silent Night with Kansas City Symphony
2014 London Philharmonic Orchestra Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 Live accompaniment to film Brief Encounter
BBC Proms War Horse Prom dir. Melly Still
Théâtre du Châtelet Into the Woods French premiere
2013 Menier Chocolate Factory Candide Musical Supervision
Théâtre du Châtelet Sunday in the Park with George French premiere
Opéra de Toulon Follies French premiere
2012 Leicester Curve Theatre Finding Neverland World Premiere
Cincinnati Opera Porgy and Bess dir. Lemuel Wade
2011 Kanagawa Arts Theatre [ja] Pacific Overtures dir. Amon Miyamoto
Théâtre du Châtelet Sweeney Todd French premiere
2010 O2 Arena Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Concert
BBC Proms Sondheim at 80 with Judi Dench, Bryn Terfel
Adelphi Theatre Love Never Dies World Premiere
2009 Cape Town Opera Porgy and Bess UK Tour
2008 Théâtre du Châtelet On the Town dir. Jude Kelly
Glimmerglass Opera Kiss Me, Kate dir. Diane Paulus
2007 Tokyo International Forum Take Flight Asian Premiere
Festival dei Due Mondi Maria Golovin dir. Vincent Boussard
The New York Pops Gala concert Carnegie Hall debut
2006 Young Vic Tobias and the Angel dir. John Fulljames
Royal Albert Hall Show Boat dir. Francesca Zambello
2004 Wales Millennium Centre Grand Opening Concert dir. Ken Caswell
Tokyo International Forum Candide dir. Amon Miyamoto
2003 Bregenz Festival West Side Story Floating Stage production
Luglio Musicale Trapanese [it] Manon Lescaut dir. Mario Corradi
2002 BBC Proms Richard Rodgers Centenary Concert dir. Kenneth Richardson
2000 Theater St. Gallen The Three Musketeers World Premiere
1999 Opera North The Thieving Magpie dir. Martin Duncan
1998 Royal Albert Hall Madama Butterfly dir. David Freeman
1997 Royal Albert Hall Carmen dir. Frank Dunlop
1996 Prince Edward Theatre Martin Guerre World Premiere
1995 Royal Albert Hall Les Misérables 10th Anniversary Concert
1991 Théâtre Mogador Les Misérables dir. Trevor Nunn & John Caird
1985 New York City Opera The Mikado dir. Lotfi Mansouri
1983 Washington Opera The Turn of the Screw U.S. conducting debut
1982 Deutschlandhalle Mass Professional conducting debut

Selected discography[edit]

Year Title Label Notes
2014 Something's Gotta Give CD: Chandos Records Simon Keenlyside, Scarlett Strallen, BBC Concert Orchestra
2013 Forever CD: Warner Classics/Erato Records Diana Damrau, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
2010 Les Misérables DVD: Universal Studios 25th Anniversary Concert
Alfie Boe, Nick Jonas, Ramin Karimloo, Lea Salonga
Tobias and the Angel CD: Chandos Records World Premiere Recording
James Laing
2005 Strauss: Dance and Dream DVD: Euroarts Concert and Docudrama
Wiener Akademie
Lesley Garrett
2004 The Little Prince CD, DVD: Sony Music World Premiere Recording
Joseph McManners, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Lesley Garrett, Willard White, Aled Jones, BBC Concert Orchestra
2002 Richard Rodgers:
An Enchanted Evening
DVD: Image Entertainment Drury Lane Centennial Concert
Judi Dench, Lesley Garrett, Kim Criswell
2000 Man of La Mancha CD: Jay Records First Complete Recording
BBC Concert Orchestra
Ron Raines, Kim Criswell
1996 Martin Guerre CD: First Night Records World Premiere Recording
Les Misérables CD: First Night Records
DVD: BBC Video
10th Anniversary Concert
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Colm Wilkinson, Philip Quast, Michael Ball, Alun Armstrong, Ruthie Henshall
La bohème (selections)
Madama Butterfly (selections)
CD: Tring Records Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Claire Rutter, Paul Charles Clarke, Stephen Gadd
1994 Miss Saigon CD: First Night Records Complete International Symphonic Cast Recording
Joanna Ampil, Peter Cousens, Kevin Gray, Hinton Battle, Ruthie Henshall
1992 Les Misérables CD: Disques Tréma Paris Cast Recording
Robert Marien, Louise Pitre, Jérôme Pradon, Stephanie Martin


  1. ^ E[dwards], A[drian]. "Schönberg Les Misérables", Gramophone magazine, August, 1996. Retrieved on October 19, 2011.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-07. Retrieved 2011-10-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Nice, David. "Stephen Sondheim At 80, Royal Albert Hall", The Arts Desk, August 1, 2010. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  4. ^ Millington, Barry. "Masters and servants at the Proms", The Evening Standard, August 2, 2010. Retrieved on October 19, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Ford, Piers. "Interview with David Charles Abell, Conductor of the 2010 Sondheim Prom", The Art of the Torch Singer, January 6, 2011. Retrieved on October 19, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c "Conductor David Charles Abell Prepares For A Season of Sondheim", Broadwayworld.com, June 11, 2010. Retrieved on October 19, 2011.
  7. ^ Billington, Michael. "The Water Diviner's Tale", The Guardian, August 28, 2007. Retrieved on October 19, 2011.
  8. ^ Jensen, Elizabeth. "In Tight Times, PBS Leans on Pledge Drives", The New York Times, March 13, 2010. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  9. ^ Benedict, David. "Love Never Dies", Variety, March 10, 2010. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  10. ^ Seckerson, Edward. "Love Never Dies...twice Archived 2012-06-14 at the Wayback Machine", The Independent, January 16, 2011. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  11. ^ Loomis, George. "Châtelet's 'Sweeney Todd' Stays True to Detailed Musical Roots", The New York Times, May 3, 2011. Retrieved on October 19, 2011.
  12. ^ "David Charles Abell: ‘The Châtelet production of SWEENEY TODD is allowing me to fulfil a long-held dream", Todomusicales, April 1, 2011. Retrieved on October 19, 2011.
  13. ^ Benzel, Jan. "Supersizing a 'Sunday in the Park'" The New York Times, April 18, 2013. Retrieved on April 30, 2013.
  14. ^ Gioia, Michael and Ly-Cuong, Stéphane. "The Screening Room: Highlights from Théâtre du Châtelet's Into the Woods in Paris (Video)" Playbill, April 15, 2014. Retrieved on May 10, 2014.
  15. ^ "Philly POPS Releases New Christmas Album", The Philly Pops, December 15, 2015. Retrieved on February 23, 2020.
  16. ^ "David Charles Abell named Principal Guest Conductor of the Philly POPS", The Philly Pops, September 21, 2017. Retrieved on February 23, 2020.
  17. ^ "David Charles Abell replaces Todd Ellison", Philadelphia Inquirer, February 12, 2020. Retrieved on February 23, 2020.
  18. ^ "Kiss Me, Kate Critical Edition Now Available". Tams Witmark Music Library. Retrieved 2018-04-28.

External links[edit]