Geoffrey McDonald is lauded as a vibrant and versatile conductor, a “promising and confident” talent (The Philadelphia Inquirer) already joining the ranks at the forefront of an evolving American opera scene. The New York Times describes him as “an agile conductor…whose pacing is sure in both reflective and restless passages", and the Observer has noted his "original and flexible musical imagination" in productions ranging from baroque to contemporary opera, in traditional venues as well as ambitious site-specific performances.
Current and recent seasons mark many company conducting debuts for McDonald, with productions at Opera Philadelphia, Minnesota Opera, Atlanta Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Curtis Opera Theatre, Mannes Opera, Opera Omaha, Opera Saratoga, Chicago Opera Theater, Toledo Opera, and the Caramoor Festival. As Music Director of New York City's On Site Opera, he continues to marshal performances of the highest musical standard while adapting to immersive and logistically challenging settings. As the Observer put it in the spring of 2015: “Geoffrey McDonald repeated the miracle of nuanced coordination [in On Site Opera's Barber of Seville] between orchestra and singers he recently accomplished with Orlando downtown.” Of other recent On Site Opera performances, The New York Times noted, “Geoffrey McDonald, drew stylish, nimble playing”, elsewhere admiring his “grace and verve”, while Opera News has praised his “sensitivity and control.”
Highlights from recent seasons include appearances as guest conductor with The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, collaborations with the International Contemporary Ensemble, and with the historical instrument ensemble Grand Harmonie. In the spring of 2017, McDonald made his German theater debut with Theater und Orchester Neubrandenburg/Neustrelitz, and led the West Bohemian Symphony Orchestra in Prague in a performance of Smetana's Ma Vlast. He is a regular workshop and assistant conductor with Opera Philadelphia, having participated in the development of new operas by Nico Muhly, Missy Mazzoli, Daniel Schnyder, and Kevin Puts. He has also conducted for American Opera Projects in the production of Gregory Spears's Wolf-in-Skins, and their workshop presentation of Tarik O'Regan's Heart of Darkness. In the summer of 2017 he led performances of Alcina from the harpsichord at Red River Lyric Opera in Texas.
In past seasons, McDonald conducted the Gotham Chamber Opera, American Symphony Orchestra and Bard Festival Players, and has collaborated regularly with innovative stage director R.B. Schlather on Händel's operas Orlando, Alcina, Ariodante, and Semele. In addition to his active freelance career, he has already established an impressive record as an engaging conductor-educator, serving as Music Director of the Longy Conservatory Orchestra in Cambridge, Massachusetts (2013-2015); the Bard College Orchestra (2011-15); the Philadelphia Young Artists Orchestra (2010-13); and the Columbia University Bach Society (2009-12).
McDonald earned his masters in orchestral conducting at Mannes College of Music, where he studied with David Hayes, and was the recipient of the Alma Askin Scholarship, the Felix Salzer Techniques of Music Award, and the Mannes Theory Essay Prize. He has received additional instruction and mentorship from Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Leif Segerstam, Leonid Grin, and Sir Gilbert Levine, whom he assisted on PBS-televised productions of Bruckner's 9th Symphony and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. Upon earning his bachelors degree (Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Princeton University in musicology, he was awarded the inaugural Edward T. Cone Memorial Prize for excellence in combining music scholarship and performance. He studied piano, cello, and voice, and is a sought-after vocal coach, working with accomplished singers who appear on the world’s top stages.