Donato Cabrera

conductor
biography

Donato Cabrera is the Music Director of the California Symphony and the Las Vegas Philharmonic. He served as the Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and the Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2009-2016. Cabrera is one of only a handful of conductors in history who has conducted performances with the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and the San Francisco Ballet.

Since Cabrera's appointment as Music Director of the California Symphony, the organization has been reinvigorated. With its expanded concerts, dramatically increased ticket sales, and innovative programming, the California Symphony and Cabrera are redefining what it means to be an orchestra in the 21st Century.  Through the California Symphony’s celebrated Young American Composer in Residence program, Cabrera has supported the burgeoning careers of composers including D.J. Sparr, Dan Visconti, and the current Composer-in-Residence, Katherine Balch.  Sound Minds, California Symphony’s nationally recognized music education program, reflects Cabrera’s commitment to diversity and education through the arts.

Under Cabrera's leadership, the Las Vegas Philharmonic has also enjoyed a dramatic increase in ticket sales and an engagement with the community never before seen in Southern Nevada. Cabrera’s programming includes not only the celebrated symphonic repertoire but also music by acclaimed living composers, demonstrating his commitment to keeping the art form relevant and vital. Through his creation of the very popular Spotlight Concerts, which showcase the musicians of the Las Vegas Philharmonic in intimate chamber music concerts, initiating community outreach concerts throughout the city, and expanding and revamping the Youth Concert Series, Cabrera has completely reshaped the relationship between the orchestra and the community.

Over the last couple of seasons, Cabrera has made impressive debuts with the National Symphony’s KC Jukebox at the Kennedy Center, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, New West Symphony, Sinfónica de Oaxaca, and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Boca del Rio.  In 2016, he led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in performances with Grammy Award-winning singer Lila Downs. Cabrera made his Carnegie Hall debut leading the world premiere of Mark Grey’s Ătash Sorushan.

As Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, Cabrera worked closely with its Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas and frequently conducted the orchestra in a variety of concerts, including all of the education and family concerts, reaching over 70,000 children throughout the Bay Area every year. He also led the San Francisco Symphony Chorus with Paul Jacobs on organ in the world premiere of Mason Bates’ Mass Transmission, subsequently conducting it in Carnegie Hall. During his seven seasons as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, Cabrera upheld the orchestra’s reputation for outstanding artistry at home and abroad. He took the group on two European tours, winning an ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of American Music on Foreign Tours, and receiving critical acclaim for a live recording from the Berlin Philharmonie of Mahler's Symphony No. 1.

Donato Cabrera co-founded the New York-based American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), which is dedicated to the outstanding performance of masterworks from the 20th and 21st centuries. He conducted ACME in the world premiere of the all-live version of Steve Reich’s WTC 9/11 for three string quartets and tape at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City, and recently led performances of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson's Drone Mass with ACME and Theatre of Voices at Duke Performances and the Big Ears Festival.

Cabrera is equally at home in the world of opera, frequently conducting productions in the United States and abroad.  He was the Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Opera from 2005-2008, working on over 18 productions and conducting multiple performances. Cabrera has also been an assistant conductor for productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Ravinia Festival, Festival di Spoleto, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Music Academy of the West. Since 2008, he has frequently conducted productions ranging from Mozart to Puccini in Concepción, Chile.

Awards and fellowships include a Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship at the Salzburg Festival and conducting the Nashville Symphony in the League of American Orchestra’s prestigious Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview. Donato Cabrera was recognized by the Consulate-General of Mexico in San Francisco as a Luminary of the Friends of Mexico Honorary Committee, for his contributions to promoting and developing the presence of the Mexican community in the Bay Area

Acclaim:
"Tall and energetic, he's a passionate, heart-on-the-sleeve conductor, with eclectic musical tastes and a wealth of experience.” – San Jose Mercury News

“Cabrera’s conducting – beautiful, accurate and attentive – steers this wonderful mechanism with authority.” – instArt

“Cabrera delivered thunderous energy.” – Bachtrack

“Cabrera cuts a commanding figure on the podium but his conducting style is not overbearing. It’s apparent the players like him.” – Las Vegas Review Journal

“With precise direction, conductor Donato Cabrera drew a taut, highly responsive performance eliciting rich, luminous tone from the ensemble.” – Chicago Classical Review

“His fluid, energetic podium style continues to yield forceful results… [bringing] the orchestra together with strength and cohesion.” – San Jose Mercury News


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Reviews
"Lila Downs in Concert" Review- a very special night at the CSO
2016-07-07 Splash Magazine, Chicago
""Cabrera...handled the baton with grace, energy, and a deft hand."

"This was a never-to-be-forgotten performance by a world-class singer, a great band, a super conductor and a splendid orchestra."
"
(Debra Davy)
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The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, Donato Cabrera, conductor, with Chen Zhao, violin, and Katie Kadarauch, viola in Mason Bates, Mozart, and Bartók
2016-06-05 Arts journal,
""Our Piece de resistance here, of course was the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra. Cabrera led a gleaming account, energetic, creepy when necessary and very lovely where it mattered to have a touch of rubato."

"Donato Cabrera's way with the Mozart was Bruno Walterish and lovely."

"Simply put, Donato Cabrera wasn't standing in front of a student orchestra. He was conducting an orchestra–a good one."
"
(Steven Kruger)
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Rejuvenated California Symphony finishes strong
2016-05-12 San Francisco Chronicle,
""Concluding his third season as the orchestra's music director, Donato Cabrera led his forces in superbly wrought performances of music by Brahms and Philip Glass, and introduced a world premiere that, for all its infelicities, showed an eagerness to embrace a broad musical landscape.""
(Joshua Kosman)
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Composer Dan Visconti endows the guitar with 'Living Language'
2016-05-09 San Jose Mercury News,
""After intermission, Cabrera conducted an elegant performance of Brahms' Symphony No. 2, shaping the music with warmth and natural flow."

"The program opened with Philip Glass' "Company." Though it was originally scored for string quartet, Cabrera led the composer's own arrangement for string orchestra; it made a brisk, appealing curtain-raiser."

"Cabrera, bringing together all the discrete threads in this musical tapestry, led a crisp performance."
"
(Georgia Rowe)
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‘New Voices Old Muses’ at The Kennedy Center’s KC Jukebox
2016-04-20 DC Metro Theater Arts, Washington, D.C.
"The program was masterfully conducted by Donato Cabrera and concluded with a post-concert party, again featuring DJ Masonic (Mason Bates) and  Dominic Johnson on electronic violin."
(Kendall Mostafavi )
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Safe adventures: KC Jukebox offers new music, with guardrails
2016-04-19 Washington Post, Washington, D.C.
"

This group, firmly led by the conductor Donato Cabrera, included a number of members of the National Symphony Orchestra, and did yeoman service through a challenging evening. Particular kudos go to the cellist Rachel Young, who played in all five pieces, including a solo turn in "Sit and Dance, for Baroque Cello and Electronics," an impassioned if slightly unfocused piece by Molly Joyce.




Bates and the Kennedy Center have learned how to work together this year: from a technical standpoint, this was the smoothest and tightest of the three KC Jukebox concerts. After five Bates performances in six days - starting with a chamber performance for the S&R Foundation last Wednesday - Washington may have been suffering from some measure of Bates fatigue; the hall was not as full as it was for the first two KC Jukebox concerts. Still, the experiment is worthwhile; I wouldn't claim Bates has found a silver bullet for successful new-music presentations, but I've enjoyed the series so far, bumps and all, and look forward to seeing what it will offer next year - over five concerts.

"
(Anne Midgette)
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Donato Cabrera and California Symphony celebrate the swing that jazz gave to 20th-century music
2016-01-25 Newspaper, San Jose
"Conventional wisdom tells us that jazz and classical works occupy discrete musical spheres. But there was a great deal of overlap throughout the 20th century, as Cabrera demonstrated with great enthusiasm in Sunday's performances. Each work showed the ways that these composers -- from France, Germany and the U.S. -- admired, and were inspired by, the music of the Jazz Age."
(Georgia Rowe)
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California Symphony sparkles under Donato Cabrera's guidance
2014-05-05 newspaper, San Jose
"Donato Cabrera has been leading the California Symphony for a relatively short time -- he was appointed the orchestra's music director last June, and began his tenure in that capacity last September -- but he's forged a remarkably cohesive ensemble since then. The results were on dynamic display throughout the orchestra's season-ending concert Sunday afternoon at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts."
(Georgia Rowe)
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