Leslie B. Dunner | Music Director & Interim Artistic Director
Rated #1 by the Chicago Sun-Times for “Chicago’s best classical music/opera moments of 2013,” Leslie B. Dunner’s performances with the South Shore Opera Company continues to grab headlines. The company’s production of William Grant Still’s opera “Troubled Island” was described as “The most history-making event of the year.” He has stage directed and conducted performances of Verdi’s “La Traviata,” Menotti’s “The Telephone” and Kurt Weill’s “The Seven Deadly Sins.” Recent performances included the Los Angeles world premiere of Anthony Davis' recent opera, The Central Park 5 in June of 2019, Steven M. Allen’s opera “The Poet” in 2017, as well as Nkeiru Okoye’s “Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom,” which he premiered in New York City with the American Opera Projects in 2014.
Dr. Dunner has frequently conducted South Africa’s annual “Starlight Pop Opera” concert with the Kwa-Zulu Natal Philharmonic. He conducted Opera Ebony’s 2013 tribute to Verdi with scenes from “Rigoletto” and “La Traviata” in New York City, the Opera /Ballet Gala performance of Bizet’s “Carmen” in Guadalajara, Mexico during the Opening Ceremonies for the 2011 International Pan American Games, and Opera Africa’s production of Mziliazi Khumalo’s opera “Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu” at Den Norske Opera in Oslo, Norway in 2007. Dunner returned to Opera Ebony for their 2014-15 production of Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” and debuted with “Skylight Music Theatre of Milwaukee,” conducting 42 performances of The Royal Shakespeare Company’s version of Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz.”
Guest conducting has included appearances with virtually every major U.S. orchestra. He has also performed in Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Estonia, South Africa, Italy, and Spain. Ballet engagements have included The American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, the Washington Ballet, London's Royal Ballet at Covent Garden and The Birmingham Royal Ballet (in London and on tour throughout England), Michigan Opera Theatre, and The South African Ballet Theatre. In 2011, Dr. Dunner was Interim Music Director for the Orquesta Filarmonica de Jalisco, Mexico.
Previously, Dr. Dunner worked with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for 11 seasons as Resident, Associate and Assistant Conductor respectively. He was Music Director of Canada’s Symphony Nova Scotia, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, conducting nationally and internationally to critical acclaim. He was Assistant Conductor to Kurt Masur with the New York Philharmonic, accompanying them on their 1995 10-city European tour. As Principal Conductor for The Dance Theatre of Harlem, engagements included a gala performance for Princess Diana, Austria's Salzburg Festival, Denmark's Tivoli Festival, performances in the former Soviet Union, and the troupe’s historic 1992 tour to South Africa, performing for Nelson Mandela. With DTH he was also music advisor for several European television productions.
Maestro Dunner has served on the Advisory Boards of World Artist Experience and Opera Vista. He judged for The International Jordania Conducting Competition in Ukraine - he was the first and to date only multiple prize-winner claiming all: the orchestra favorite, audience favorite, and founder’s favorite prizes. His awards, honors, commendations, and proclamations include the "Distinguished Achievement" and "James Weldon Johnson" awards from the NAACP, the "Distinguished Young Alumnus Award” from Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, and the “Charles Stone Award” from the National Association of Negro Musicians. Proclamations have been bestowed from New York, Michigan, and Maryland. In Detroit, he received the "Man of the Year" and "Spirit of Detroit" awards from Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. Dr. Dunner was the first co-winner of the Colorado Philharmonic National Conducting Competition and the first American prize-winner at the Arturo Toscanini International Conducting Competition. He also conducted for the American Symphony Orchestra League's "Leonard Bernstein American Conductors' Program."
Leslie B. Dunner is a clarinetist and composer, having played in the USA and Canada. His compositions have been successfully performed throughout the USA and abroad. His large scale work, The Whirligigs of Time: Twelfth Night Suite for mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra, was commissioned and premiered by the Prince George’s Philharmonic. His “Motherless Child Songs,” recorded by the Minnesota Composers Forum, is available on the Innova label. His recording “Magical, Mystical Mouse” with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra (music from animated films), is available on the Pro Arte label. His live-recording performance of Alvin Singleton's “BluesKonzert” with pianist Ursula Oppens and the DSO is available on the Chandos label, released to critical acclaim on the album “Ellington and the Great Masters.” His two recordings with the Center For Black Music Research, ‘The African Diaspora:’ “Five Movements in Color” by Mary Watkins and the groundbreaking “Symphony in E minor” and “Piano Concerto in One Movement” by Florence Price are available from Albany records.
In Chicago, Dr. Dunner has played principal clarinet for productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” and Joseph Stein’s “Fiddler on the Roof” as well as clarinet and bass clarinet for the musical “Seussical.” He plays summer concerts with the Wheaton Municipal Band. 2020 will see Dr. Dunner conduct Wagner's opera Gotterdammerung with the Trilogy Opera Company in New Jersey, as well as American Composer Joyce Moorman's newest opera for the International Zimbabwe Arts Festival: the largest arts festival on the African continent.