Early years and San Francisco
Summers was born in Washington, Indiana and raised in Loogootee, Indiana. He graduated from the Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University with a bachelor's degree in music in 1986. Upon graduation, he participated in the San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program as an apprentice coach in 1986 and 1987, and won the Otto Guth Memorial Award for excellence in vocal coaching both years. Summers' first professional engagement, with San Francisco Opera's Western Opera Theater, was conducting La bohème in their 1986/87 season. Following that performance, he was made musical director of the Western Opera Theater until 1989. He led the Western Opera Theater on its 1987 tour to China – the first time a Western opera company visited the country. In 1988, Summers conducted the Chinese premiere of Puccini's Tosca in Shanghai. In 1989, he began his tenure as the music director of the San Francisco Opera Center, a training program for young singers; his first main-stage production, Die Fledermaus, was in 1990. During his time at the Opera Center, Summers helped develop the Pacific Voices program. In 1994, his final year at the Opera Center, Summers had his debut with Opera Australia, conducting La Cenerentola. In 1999, he was named the Principal Guest Conductor of San Francisco Opera. Summers is still active with San Francisco Opera, most recently conducting Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick.
Houston Grand Opera and the Metropolitan Opera
In 1998, Summers was made Music Director of Houston Grand Opera, a position he has held since. 1998 also saw Summers’ Metropolitan Opera conducting debut in Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus. Since 1998, Summers has repeatedly returned to the Metropolitan Opera as a guest conductor. He was one of three conductors, along with Metropolitan Opera Music Director James Levine and Marco Armiliato, to participate in the Metropolitan Opera's 125th Anniversary Gala, has led the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions finals concert on several occasions, and has appeared in four of the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD transmissions of Saturday matinee performances shown in cinemas around the world. In 2006, Summers led the Metropolitan Opera on a tour of Japan.
As Music Director of Houston Grand Opera, Summers oversaw the foundation and development of the HGO Orchestra. Prior to the orchestra’s foundation, HGO hired outside orchestras for its productions. Since 1998, Summers has conducted over 50 productions at Houston Grand Opera, including seven world premieres (notably Carlisle Floyd's Cold Sassy Tree in 2000). In recent years, Summers helped oversee the creation of HGOCo, an initiative that includes commissions, teacher workshops, and opportunities for children and young voice students. In 2011, following Anthony Freud's move to Chicago Lyric Opera, Summers was named Houston Grand Opera’s Artistic and Music Director.
Conducting in Europe
Summers’s European debut was in 1994 at the Rome Opera conducting Manon Lescaut. He has since appeared at Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu (La Cenerentola), the Welsh National Opera (Rigoletto), the Bregenz Festival (The Magic Flute and Carlisle Floyd's Of Mice and Men), Lisbon's Teatro Nacional de São Carlos (Ariadne auf Naxos), the Opéra national de Bordeaux (Don Pasquale and La bohème), and the European premiere of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire at the Opéra national du Rhin in Strasbourg.
Summers is also in demand as a symphonic conductor, often in collaboration with other artists, such as baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, soprano Renée Fleming, and soprano Christine Brewer. In 2010, Summers led pianist Yuja Wang and the Russian National Orchestra on an eight-city U.S. tour. Summers made his debut at the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in a gala concert celebrating the company's 50th anniversary season, and his debut with the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra in Ljubljana conducting Michael Daugherty's Metropolis Symphony. In addition, he has conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Music Festival, the Colorado Symphony, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Munich Symphony Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Work with composers
Patrick Summers has collaborated closely with a number of composers and is widely sought-after internationally for his interpretation of new music. His work with living composers has resulted in the world premieres of nearly a dozen works. Throughout his career, Summers has worked with composers Tod Machover (on his opera Resurrection), Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking, The End of the Affair, Last Acts, Moby-Dick), Rachel Portman (The Little Prince), Michael Daugherty, Carlisle Floyd (Cold Sassy Tree), André Previn (A Streetcar Named Desire and Brief Encounter), Mark Adamo, Daniel Catán (Salsipuedos), R. Murray Schafer, Lee Hoiby (The Tempest), Christopher Theofanidis (The Refuge and Heart of a Soldier), and Paul Moravec (The Letter), amongst others.
Summers is featured on many audio and video recordings. In 2002, he won a Grammy Award for his audio recording Bel Canto, with soprano Renée Fleming and the Orchestra of St. Luke's. He has recorded many new works with Houston Grand Opera: Mark Adamo's Little Women (Ondine, 2002), Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas (Albany, 2002), Carlisle Floyd's Cold Sassy Tree (Albany, 2005) and Of Mice and Men (Albany, 2003), Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking (Virgin Classics, 2012) and Three Decembers (Albany, 2008), Tod Machover's Resurrection (Albany, 2002), André Previn's Brief Encounter (Deutsche Grammophon, 2011), and Christopher Theofanidis's The Refuge (Albany, 2007). On DVD and Blu-ray Disc, releases include Bellini's I puritani (Deutsche Grammophon, 2008), Puccini's Madama Butterfly (Sony, 2011), and Richard Strauss's Salome (Sony, 2011) all with the Metropolitan Opera; Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro (2011) with Opera Australia; Rossini's La Cenerentola (Decca, 2010) with the Gran Teatre del Liceu; and Mark Adamo's Little Women (Naxos, 2010) with Houston Grand Opera. He has also recorded recital albums including Love Duets with Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez.
Summers has contributed over thirty articles to Opera Cues, the official program book and magazine of Houston Grand Opera, having written on composers (Britten, Donizetti, Handel, Janacek, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, Leoncavallo, Mascagni, Mozart, Puccini, Rossini, Verdi, and Wagner), collaborations with living composers (Jake Heggie, Ricky Ian Gordon, and Stephen Sondheim), and features on opera donors, in addition to essays on conducting, opera, and education. Summers is currently editing and compiling a book of selected essays, forthcoming from University of Chicago Press.
Awards, honors, and media recognition
- Lecturer for Rice University's Campbell Lecture Series (2013)
- Stars of Australia Award (2008)
- Named one of the "25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera" by Opera News (2006)
- Grammy Award for recording of Bel Canto (2002)
- Named "Distinguished Alumnus" by San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program (2001)
- Stolichnaya's Artist of the Year (1998)
- Otto Guth Memorial Award, San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program (1986, 1987)
- "Patrick Summers Biography". San Francisco Opera.
- Summers, Patrick. "Western Opera Theater: Addio, senza rancor". San Francisco Classical Voice. Archived from the original on 2014-02-28.
- Necula, Maria-Cristina (2009). Life in Opera. Amadeus. p. 195.
- "Patrick Summers Biography". Houston Grand Opera. Archived from the original on 2013-09-02.
- Gurewitsch, Matthew. "Ahab Sings! (The Whale Does Not)". The New York Times.
- "Metropolitan Opera Archives".
- Tommasini, Anthony. "Fleming Gala Opens the Met's Season". The New York Times.
- Ward, Charles. "Patrick Summers, opera music chief, smitten with city". Houston Chronicle.
- Swed, Mark. "Nostalgic 'Cold Sassy Tree' Blunts Tale's Harder Edges". Los Angeles Times.
- Borwick, Doug. "Mainstreaming Engagement". Engaging Matters.
- "Conductor Patrick Summers Named Artistic and Music Director at Houston Grand Opera in Administrative Realignment". Opera News.
- "Patrick Summers Takes Leadership Reins at Houston Grand Opera". 21c Media Group. Archived from the original on 2014-02-27.
- Les programmes de l'Opéra national du Rhin. Opéra national du Rhin. 2001.
- Budmen, Lawrence. "Yuja Wang strikes sparks at Kravis with Russian National Orchestra". South Florida Classical Review.
- Ellison, Cori. "Opera Recalls A Hero's Life, Love and Song". The New York Times.
- "Patrick Summers". WQXR.
- Eddins, Stephen. "Artist Biography". AllMusic.
- "The Campbell Lecture Series: Patrick Summers". Rice University.
- "Australia Week, 2010". Australian American Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on 2012-06-29.
- Westphal, Matthew. "Opera News Announces Its "25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera"". Playbill.
- "Discography of Patrick Summers". Musical World.
- "Patrick Summers Biography". Los Angeles Philharmonic.