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After two years, the Philharmonic taps a former Nevadan as conductor

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Donato Cabrera is the new conductor for the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

After an exhaustive two-year search and repeat visits from candidates vying for the position, the Las Vegas Philharmonic announced this week Donato Cabrera will be its new conductor.

The selection adds a new dimension to the Philharmonic, given that Cabrera, the current resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony (who grew up in Las Vegas and Reno), is a champion of new music. He co-founded the New York-based American Contemporary Music Ensemble and is music director for the California Symphony, which features work by young American composers, particularly early-career artists. Then there’s his conducting the world premiere of Mark Grey’s “Atash Sorushan” at Carnegie Hall in 2011.

Though Cabrera’s first season with the Las Vegas Philharmonic (2014-’15) includes works by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Beethoven and Brahms, its April Masterworks concert begins with “The Chairman Dances” by noted (and still living) minimalist composer John Adams, before moving into Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and then onto Tchaikovsky’s Fifth.

The inclusion of Adams might seem insignificant within the context of the full season, but it’s a hold-onto-your-seat moment for those eager to dabble in musical adventures, even if they’re only momentary blips.

Additionally, Cabrera, who spent three years with the San Francisco Opera before joining the San Francisco Symphony, opens the 2014-15 season here with soprano biggie Deborah Voigt (known for, among other things, her work with the Metropolitan Opera), a delicacy in a city that hasn’t had a steadily performing professional opera company and shows no sign of gaining one in the near future.

Cabrera signed a three-year contract with the Las Vegas Philharmonic and will continue as resident conductor at the San Francisco Symphony for its 2014-’15 season. He is also the Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and music director of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra.

For anyone following the two-year auditions, Cabrera was the guest conductor who led the Philharmonic’s Battle Born—Nevada Proud concert featuring a piece by another former Nevadan (and living composer), Eric Whitacre.

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Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson joined the Las Vegas Sun in 1998 as a general assignment reporter. In 2003, she turned her focus ...

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