Athlone Artists is pleased to welcome to the roster Maria Sensi Sellner, recognized as an “inspired and astonishingly versatile” (Berkshire On Stage) conductor of opera, orchestras and choruses. She was the first three-time winner of the American Prize for Opera Conducting, praised by the organization for her “mightily impressive” work.
Ms. Sellner is the Founder and Artistic & General Director of Resonance Works Pittsburgh, a multi-modal performing arts company now in its 7th season. The company showcases works for orchestra, chorus, vocal soloists, chamber musicians, staged opera and musical theater – often on the same program – and was recognized by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as having “demonstrated an innovative streak in its musical programming earning its own niche in the city’s concert landscape.” Ms. Sellner is also a cover conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Administrator for the Blackburn Music Academy at Festival Napa Valley. In the fall of 2018, she made her debut with the Dallas Opera Orchestra as one of six international conductors selected for the Hart Institute for Women Conductors. Of her performance of the duet from Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, the Dallas Morning News raved, “Hardly glancing at the singers, Maria Sensi Sellner just seemed to know what they were going to do, and provided just the right support.”
In September 2019, Sellner conducted the world premiere of I Am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams, an immigrant story by composer Jorge Sosa and librettist Cerise Lim Jacobs at Boston’s White Snake Projects. Of her performance, the Boston Music Intelligencer wrote, “Conductor Maria Sensi Sellner navigated the frequent meter changes and sudden interruptions of rhythm with skill and subtlety, supporting the constantly evolving dramatic conversations.”
Maria became acquainted with Miguel Rodriguez and Athlone Artists through a Hart Institute colleague at a recent Opera America conference.
“Miguel comes to this work with the experience of multiple sides of the musical world,” says Maria. “As a singer, he brings a lot of insight, and he’s had great success as an administrator. He is smart and savvy, and he has a unique combination of experience and positive energy. You can tell that he is optimistic about the business and what we can all achieve in it.”
Maria often hearkens back to a quote from the late Daniel Lewis at a conducting workshop she attended. “He said, ‘we all have to find our own way through the maze.’ We all need a partnership in navigating this business. My gut tells me that Miguel is going to be a great strategic partner as we work together to navigate this path.”
“From our initial conversation at the Opera America Conference, I got the feeling I would enjoy collaborating with Ms. Sellner”, says Miguel Rodriguez. “Then, I had the pleasure of experiencing her performance in the world premiere of I Am A Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams, and l became excited at her skill and ability for constant dramatic evolution at the podium. It was brilliant artistry!”
Ms. Sellner was lauded by Cleveland Classical for “really transform[ing] the Akron Symphony Chorus” during her six-year tenure there, where she also conducted both classical and pops concerts with the Akron Symphony Orchestra. Other previously held positions include Acting Music Director of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (chorus of choice of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra), hailed by the Pittsburgh Tribune as “magnificent” and performing with “superb dramatic thrust” under her direction, as well as Artistic Advisor for Hubbard Hall Opera. She served as interim faculty at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music as director of choral activities, and also was Music Director of Carnegie Mellon’s All University Orchestras for ten years. Past engagements have included Syracuse Opera, the Center for Contemporary Opera, Symphoria, the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, Boston Opera Collaborative, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, and Hubbard Hall Opera Theater. Ms. Sellner has prepared choirs for maestri including Manfred Honeck, Gerard Schwarz, Carl Topilow, Christopher Wilkins, Daniel Meyer, and Todd Ellison.
In 2016, Ms. Sellner was on the conducting team for the world premiere of the public domain by David Lang, a piece written for 1,000 volunteer singers and performed on the plaza during the 50th anniversary of the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. The premiere was hailed by the New York Times as the “most inspiring feel-good performance of 2016.”
At Resonance Works Pittsburgh, Ms. Sellner has conducted the American premiere of Sir James MacMillan’s Gloria and a number of Pittsburgh premieres including David Lang’s little match girl passion and Dvořák’s Rusalka. Recent collaborators have included Texture Contemporary Ballet, the cello rock band Cello Fury, the University of Pittsburgh Department of Theatre Arts, The Brass Roots, Pittsburgh’s Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) High School, the voice department of Slippery Rock University, photographer Chuck Beard, painter Baron Batch, the Homewood Cemetery Historical Fund, and guest artists including Pittsburgh Symphony trumpeter Neal Berntsen and principal flutist Lorna McGhee, flamenco dancer Fanny Ara (seen on NBC’s “World of Dance”), members of the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus, and internationally renowned Baroque flutist Stephen Schultz.
She has also been invited to conduct in orchestral masterclasses around the US and in the UK. Most notably, in 2008 and 2009, she conducted on the Discovery Series Concerts at the Oregon Bach Festival as a part of the masterclass with conductor Helmuth Rilling.
Ms. Sellner holds masters degrees in conducting (studying with Robert Page), composition, and mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. A native of western Pennsylvania, Ms. Sellner resides in Pittsburgh with her Roboticist husband, Brennan, and their Havanese puppy, Lucy.