17-year-old British composer Alma Deutscher to make opera conducting debut in San Jose

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Tuesday, November 8, 2022
17-year-old British composer to make opera conducting debut in SJ
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Musical child prodigy and British composer Alma Deutscher, 17, will soon be making her opera conducting debut in San Jose.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A musical child prodigy made history throughout the world and continues to set records as a teenager.

Now, she'll be conducting an opera in San Jose.

A wave of music fills the rehearsal hall at Opera San Jose, the music starting and stopping with the wave of a baton. The person commanding that baton and the room of musicians is 17-year-old Alma Deutscher.

The British composer, pianist and violinist, who's leading an orchestra of musicians older than her, composed her first piano sonata at five. At seven she completed a short opera and at nine she wrote a violin concerto.

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She is in San Jose for her international operatic conducting debut of the opera she started creating as an 8-year-old, a new take on Cinderella.

"People may remember me from five years ago because then Cinderella was performed also in San Jose at the opera," Deutscher said, "But then I was playing the violin, and playing the piano and now it's so exciting because the opera is back again - but I'm conducting. I'm the boss. I'm in charge of everything and I can get it to sound exactly how I want it to sound."

Deutscher says at 17, leading a room of adults doesn't intimidate her - she's been doing it since she was 7.

"I remember they would always in the beginning think it's a little bit strange that a little girl comes and gives them orders," she reflected, "When they actually got to know me and got to know the music, then they understood and now, I've had a lot of experience watching rehearsals."

It's not just Deutscher's conducting that makes Opera San Jose's production of Cinderella unique, it's also the way she wrote the story.

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"Instead of the prince finding her with a shoe, it's a little bit different, it's a twist," Deutscher said, "He actually finds her with a melody, which he sings as she flees and then he searches the whole kingdom and sings the beginning of the melody. He remembers it was haunting, but he doesn't know what it was. Only the girl who could finish it is the one he's looking for."

As for what's next, Deutscher says she's working on a new opera, "The Emperor's New Waltz" set to debut in Austria.

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Deutscher says her biggest hope is that people who come and see the production will get the music, stuck in their head.

Opera San Jose presents Cinderella runs from Nov. 12 through Nov. 27.

Tickets are available here.

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