French conductor Sonia Ben-Santamaria brings energy, intimacy and lightness to the podium with her conducting style. Taking up piano lessons from the age of 6, she studied at the Conservatoire de Toulouse before completing her post-graduate degree at the Royal Academy of Music in London where she received the Power Biggs Award, the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund Award for Répétiteurs and the Major Van Someren-Godfrey Memorial Prize for Accompaniment in English Song. Sonia became a trainee at the National Opera Studio in 2010 where she won the Leonard Hancock Memorial Trust Prize, and subsequently joined the English National Opera in Season 2011/12.
An unexpected opportunity arose in 2013 on the day of a performance to conduct The Magic Flute with Chelmsford City Opera and Orchestra, which changed the course of her career. Following this first great conducting success, she led the St Paul Sinfonia orchestra in two performances of Die Fledermaus, generating further acclaim for her work on the podium.
In the 2017/18 season, Ben-Santamaria was selected to become an associate of the Jette Parker young artists’ programme at the Royal Opera house, Covent Garden, the first female conductor to win the opportunity. She spent part of the season shadowing Sir Antonio Pappano on Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. Sonia also assisted David Murphy on the world premiere of his collaboration with Ravi Shankar, Sukanya, coproduced by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which she also had the opportunity to conduct. Additionally, she led the Youth Opera Company in Barrie Kosky’s production of Bizet’s Carmen.
One of six conductors selected in 2018 from a world-wide pool to attend the renowned Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors at The Dallas Opera, Texas, USA, Sonia was chosen to conduct the Orchestra’s Gala, for which she won great critical acclaim.
In June 2019, she made her conducting debut at Opera Holland Park with Un Ballo in Maschera before taking on the role of associate assistant conductor at Opera North, jumping in on her first day to conduct John Williams’s Jurassic Park Suite. In 2020, she conducts Green Eggs and Ham by Robert Kapilow for Opera North, and makes her Italian debut conducting Gianni Schicchi at the Mediterranean Opera Studio Festival.
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Un ballo in maschera, Opera Holland Park
Conductor Sonia Ben-Santamaria drew notably fine playing from the City of London Sinfonia-the arching violin lines of the Act 2 prelude linger in the memory- and articulated this multifaceted opera with an acute sense for both structure and drama. She even succeeded in making the abrupt exclamations of 'Notte d'orror' and wham-bam final bars, so often bathetic after the sublime ensemble that precedes them, sound like more than an applause-cadging gesture.
Opera Magazine, Yehuda Shapiro, June 2019
Sonia Ben-Santamaria produced an intimacy and lightness with the orchestra that achieved something delightfully like large-scale chamber music at times, whilst still being able to enforce the gravitas and weight of the score’s soaring, sterner climaxes.
Youth Opera Review, Alice Williams,30 June 2019
The City of London Sinfonia are clearly right behind conductor Sonia Ben-Santamaria and play beautifully. The chorus are as outstanding as ever.
The Arbuturian, A.Selby , 30 June 2019
Conductor, Sonia Ben-Santamaria, also from the young artist scheme, did a fine job of directing City of London Sinfonia in what is a fiendishly difficult opera to conduct with its fast tempos, quintets and intricate arrangements. Slight timing issues, when the French horns ran away with themselves for example, were just blips on an otherwise beautifully fluid interpretation of one of Verdi’s most ravishing of scores.
Art Muse London, K.H, 1 July 2019
Giulio Cesare & Don Pasquale Overture, The Dallas Opera
Breaking the glass podium : The Dallas Opera's fourth annual Hart Institute for Women Conductors concert was another success that showed a bright future. This year’s Hart Institute concert opened with Sonia Ben-Santamaria's (France) energetic rendition of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale Overture. Conducting without a baton(..) she did a fine job musically with all of the mood changes in this potpourri overture. Her work in the remainder of the program was similar, except for an arresting performance of Handel's Giulio Cesare scene.
North Texas Performing Arts, G.Sullivan Isaacs, November 2018
Sonia Ben-Santamaria's Repertoire
To Himself, Alone
The Monstrous Child
La Clemenza di Tito
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
The Queen of Spades
Un ballo in maschera