Music Director Michael Francis is adding another conducting position, this one with a long commute: Germany.
He has been named principal conductor of the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, the leading orchestra of Rhineland-Palatinate, based in Ludwigshafen am Rhein. He will start a five-year contract in September 2019, as the orchestra celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Need a translation? Don’t worry, Florida Orchestra fans, it doesn’t affect his position with TFO, where he recently signed a contract extension through 2024. But it does reflect his growing global reputation.
Already an artist-in-residence there, Maestro Francis was chosen over more than 100 conductors who auditioned to lead the large, state-funded orchestra, which performs throughout the community, Germany and abroad. It is considered an A+ orchestra with 86 full-time professional musicians for a season that runs mid-September to mid-July.
The position is a little different from his at The Florida Orchestra. Francis will program and conduct eight to 10 weeks of concerts in Germany, but he won’t be responsible for programming an entire Masterworks season like he does here at TFO, where he also has more far-reaching responsibilities.
Considering he is also music director of the Mainly Mozart summer festival in San Diego, why take on yet another position?
“I could continue with my normal guest-conducting schedule, but there is something wonderful about building and growing an orchestra. To find a way to maximize an orchestra’s potential in each unique community is deeply rewarding.” Francis said. “I am passionate to help make a difference through the power of music, much like we’re doing at The Florida Orchestra.”
It’s actually quite common for successful conductors to have a position in Europe and a position in the United States. When TFO hired Francis in 2015, he was already chief conductor and artistic advisor of the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra in Sweden, a position he held until 2016. When Francis isn’t with TFO, he’s usually guest conducting around the U.S. and the world anyway, in places like London, Tokyo, Berlin and Cleveland. It’s the same for most successful conductors.
Francis also is fascinated by the Ludwigshafen area’s large immigrant population. “It’s a real reflection of modern Germany, and I find this diversity fascinating. We will be reaching such a wide range of people across the state. Another advantage of the position is that it opens up a lot of different repertoire opportunities for me.”
In Francis’ new role, the native Londoner will communicate mostly in German. Similar to TFO, Francis plans to start an Inside the Music talk-and-play series there as well – in German. “But I have a lot of work to do to develop my vocabulary to be able to communicate at a public speaking level!”
However, he will continue to live in Tampa Bay, where he has a home with his wife, Cindy, and daughter, Annabella. One thing makes that bearable.
“Logistically it’s very easy because of Tampa’s excellent airport,” Francis said. “I’m always there!”