Will Crutchfield spent his teens as a vocal coach and rehearsal pianist, made his name as a writer and musicologist in the mid-1980’s (becoming the youngest music critic in the history of The New York Times), and returned to his theater roots in the mid-1990’s to conduct opera. After initial conducting successes with productions in small companies and conservatories, Crutchfield was named to two positions: Director of Opera for the Caramoor International Music Festival (1997-present) and Music Director of the Opera de Colombia in Bogota (1999-2005). At these two theaters he built his style, which the Financial Times called “a fine balance of bravado, intensity, sensitivity and scholarly savoir-faire,” in cycles of standard repertory classics as well as pioneering revivals of less familiar works.
Recent career highlights include Crutchfield with Utah Opera for their production of Così fan tutte, a new production of Maria Stuarda and revivals of La traviata and Il barbiere di Siviglia in Poznan, Guillaume Tell and HMS Pinafore at Caramoor, a return to Bogota for the Colombian premiere of Don Carlos, and a debut with the Warsaw Philharmonic, leading symphonies of Haydn and Charles Ives. In 2012, he conducted Palm Beach Opera’s production of Roméo et Juliette, and made his debut during the summer at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro for Ciro in Babilonia. He returned to Palm Beach Opera in 2012-2013 for La cenerentola.
Crutchfield has accepted guest engagements in several theaters at home and abroad, including the Canadian Opera Company (Tancredi with Ewa Podles), the Washington National Opera (Giulio Cesare with Hei-Kyung Hong), the Minnesota Opera (I Capuleti e i Montecchi with Sumi Jo and Vivica Genaux; La traviata with Judith Howarth), the Baltimore Opera (La cenerentola and Werner Herzog’s production of Die Zauberflöte), Florida Grand Opera (Don Pasquale), L’Opéra Français de New York (Gluck’s Pélérins de la Mècque), the Mark Morris Dance Group (Dido and Aeneas),Wolf Trap Opera (La Finta Giardiniera), the State Theatre Pretoria (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) and theOrquesta Filarmonica de la Gran Canaria (Norma). In 2006, he began a long-term relationship with the Polish National Opera in Warsaw, beginning with productions of Tancredi, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Lucia di Lammermoor, and Guillaume Tell.
In reviews of the celebrated Caramoor revivals – alongside praise for the musical interpretation – the press has consistently recognized the qualities of the rare operas themselves more positively than has been the case in productions elsewhere. The New York Times, reviewing the production of La Donna del Lago that inaugurated the series, discerned “a palpable conviction that Rossini’s serious operas are not static vehicles for elaborate vocal display, but elegant and humane musical dramas.” According to The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Crutchfield brought his sure sense of bel canto style to bear upon Lucrezia Borgia, and the semi-staged concert version at Caramoor’s Venetian Theater was both delightful and thought-provoking.” Subsequent revivals of Bellini’s Il Pirata, Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra and Otello, Handel’s Deidamia, Gluck’s Paride ed Elena and Donizetti’s Élisabeth, a lost opera whose autograph manuscript Crutchfield himself discovered and reconstructed have been highly acclaimed. In the summer of 2008, Caramoor presented two classics in new critical editions supervised by Philip Gossett: Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, the latter in its rarely-heard original version, composed for the Imperial Theatre of St. Petersburg at the height of Verdi’s career. In prior seasons, Bel Canto at Caramoor presented the first American performance of Bellini’s La Sonnambula in the new Ricordi critical edition and the composer’s original keys, an uncut Traviata based on period performance practice, and the infrequently produced treasures I Puritani by Bellini and Tancredi by Rossini.
Crutchfield has also been involved in training the next generation of singers. He prefers to work repeatedly with young artists he believes in so that the process can develop from production to production. He served on the faculties of all three New York conservatories (Juilliard, Manhattan and Mannes) and he continues to devote the summer months to extensive training programs at Caramoor. Some of the singers with whose debuts and early careers he has been associated include: Vivica Genaux, Nancy Herrera, Marguerite Krull, Bruce Fowler, Daniel Mobbs, Georgia Jarman, Patricia Risley, Yegishe Manucharyan, Olga Makarina, Kate Aldrich and Alexandra Deshorties. An often-noted component of Crutchfield’s research, as of his practical work with singers, has been the recovery and development of the art of ornamental improvisation.
Notwithstanding his concentration on opera, Crutchfield has also led symphonic repertory including works of Mahler, Strauss, Bartok, Beethoven, Britten, Schubert and Mendelssohn with various orchestras in the U.S. and Latin America. He has also remained active as a pianist, and his speaking voice is familiar to audiences who have heard his frequent intermission broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera. Crutchfield is currently completing a book on performance practice in Italian opera.
Utah Opera – Così fan tutte
The orchestra is especially important in “Così fan tutte,” because with all the deception unfolding onstage, the audience sometimes must look to Mozart’s music for the truth. Will Crutchfield leads the Utah Symphony in a crisp, beautifully paced performance of the sparkling score.”
Catherine Reese Newton, Salt Lake Tribune
Caramoor Festival – Don Carlos
Despite sweltering conditions, July 20’s Don Carlos showed Crutchfield at top form not only as an impressario…but as a conductor. His cogent pacing and sensitive leadership proved particularly welcome…”
David Shengold, Opera News
Rossini Opera Festival (Pesaro) – Ciro in Babilonia
Mr. Crutchfield, who received a warm reception, led an assured performance, drawing fine, supple playing from the orchestra of Bologna’s Teatro Communale and attractive singing from its chorus. As expected, he ensured that vocal ornamentation was gracefully applied and also showed an awareness of niceties that other conductors are oblivious to, such as encouraging singers to close quick numbers with panache yet stylishly; Ms. Pratt and Mr. Spyres are exemplary here.”
George Loomis, The New York Times
Caramoor International Music Festival – I Capuleti e i Montecchi
Mr. Crutchfield elicited lively, buoyant work from the Caramoor Festival Chorus and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s…”
Steve Smith, New York Times
The Caramoor Festival Chorus sounded in good form, careful to follow Crutchfield’s beat even when they sang offstage in the tomb scene. Crutchfield led his forces with a sure hand, with strong ideas about tempos but also the finesse to allow his singers rhythmic freedom…”
Charles Downey, The Classical Review
Caramoor International Music Festival – Ciro in Babilonia
Overall Mr. Crutchfield, playing recitative accompaniments on a fortepiano as well as conducting, led a stylish, well-paced and vibrant account of this impressive score.”
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times
Palm Beach Opera – Roméo et Juliette
Under guest conductor Will Crutchfield, the orchestra provided a solid base, never covering the singers, but maintaining a lush sound of its own.”
Márcio Bezerra, Palm Beach Daily News
Will Crutchfield, opera director of the Caramoor International Music Festival in upstate New York, is a singer’s conductor, never overpowering what’s taking place on stage.”
David Fleshler, South Florida Classical Review
French opera requires a subtle reading that Will Crutchfield along with the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra gave with tremendous elegance.”
Jeff Haller, ConcertoNet.com
Caramoor International Music Festival – Guillaume Tell
…To listen to the sounds he creates is to admire music-making highly attuned to the expressivity of the composer. Above all, Crutchfield commands the gift of subtle, constant forward motion…”
William R. Braun, Opera News
Under conductor Will Crutchfield, the orchestra and chorus brought richness and bel canto lyricism to the score, from the galloping motifs of the overture to the antiphonal horn playing that evoked the echoes of the Swiss mountains, the lively, fugal mustering of the cantons in Act II, and the victorious tremolos of the finale.”
Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal
At Caramoor, the estimable Orchestra of St. Luke’s is conducted with conviction and a shrewd balancing of vocal and instrumental elements by Will Crutchfield. Under his baton, the singers fare brilliantly…”
David A. Rosenberg, The Stamford Times
Under Maestro Crutchfield’s expert baton, the Saint Luke’s Orchestra made even this familiar music sound absolutely fresh.”
Arlene Judith Klotzko, ConcertoNet.com
Caramoor Festival – H.M.S. Pinafore
Mr. Crutchfield, leading the festival’s resident Orchestra of St. Luke’s and a well-balanced cast, gave a brisk, vibrant account of the score…”
Allan Kozinn, New York Times