Haig Utidjian is a British conductor of Armenian descent. He started conducting at the age of sixteen, and joined the Association of British Choral Directors as an undergraduate. He was educated at the Universities of Sussex, London and Cambridge, at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where he studied piano, viola and singing, and completed the Advanced Conducting Course in 1995.
Utidjian was awarded the Ricordi Conducting Prize on graduation and was the winner of the Competition for the Bob Harding Bursary for Young Conductors, at which he represented the Guildhall School amongst candidates from the other UK academies. Haig regularly attended Lothar Zagrosek's rehearsals with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta, receiving invaluable guidance on twentieth-century repertoire. He furthered his studies by consultations with Carlo Maria Giulini in Milan, Richard Schumacher in Valsolda and Vilem Tausky in London.
In the 1998-1999 season Haig was invited to take up a graduate attachment at the Music Faculty of the Prague Academy of Performing Arts, entailing specialised consultations with Frantisek Vajnar, Josef Kuchinka and Jiri Belohlavek, lessons in stylistic composition with Juraj Filas and experience with a number distinguished orchestras in Bohemia. His rapidly-acquired fluency in Czech enhanced his working relationship with Czech singers and instrumentalists, and he was invited to return for a further period. Utidjian has conducted concerts in Prague, Teplice, Marienbad and Usti nad Labem, where he has served as assistant conductor at the Municipal Theatre, working on productions of The Cunning Little Vixen and Die Fledermaus and training the theatre orchestra for performances of La Finta Giardiniera at Prague's Estates Theatre. His collaboration with the orchestra immediately resulted in the musicians themselves inviting him to conduct their own, self-governing chamber orchestra, the Collegium Musicum. He has now been invited to assume the post of Principal Conductor of the orchestra from September 2000.
Other Czech orchestras he has conducted include the Prazska komorni filharmonie, the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, the North Bohemian Philharmonic (Teplice), the West Bohemian Symphony Orchestra (Marianske Lazne), and the Bohemian Chamber Philharmonic of Pardubice, with whom he made his Sal Martinu debut in April 1999. He has also held the post of Principal Conductor of the Prague International Youth Orchestra since December 1999.
Haig made his debut with the Barbican Chamber Orchestra in May 1997, in a programme of works by Mozart, Ravel and Shostakovich. With his own professional group, The Ensemble Duparc, he has devised, presented and conducted imaginative programmes drawn from the repertoire for extended chamber ensemble, juxtaposing works as diverse as Wagner's Siegfried-Idyll and the Schoenberg Chamber Symphonies with music ranging from Bach to Birtwistle, and with a particular emphasis on the music of the twentieth century. Their work has embraced first performances, workshops on works such as Messiaen's Oiseaux Exotiques and Birtwistle's Silbury Air, appearances in the Maderna Festival and at the Britten-Pears School, and a collaboration with the legendary Swiss tenor Hugues Cuenod. Haig also served for a number of years as Principal Conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of Sussex (with whom he made regular appearances at the Chapel Royal in Brighton).
Utidjian has also widely guest-conducted in the UK and, increasingly, on the Continent, where, in addition to his work with Czech orchestras, he has conducted the Orchestra of the Festival del Piccolo Mondo Antico (Italy), the Jonge Filharmonie (Belgium) and the Ensemble Orchestral du Festival International Albert-Roussel (France).
In addition, Haig has extensive experience with a wide range of amateur and student groups. He has worked with all the resident ensembles at the Guildhall School (where he was entrusted with a number of high-profile public appearances including, for instance, the inaugural concert of the First Jersey International Festival), and has trained student ensembles at Imperial College and (in Cambridge) at Corpus Christi, Clare, Jesus, Pembroke, Selwyn and Robinson Colleges. He also served, with distinction, as Director of the Monteverdi Ensemble and Music Director of the Symphony Chorus and Orchestra of the Cambridge University Beethoven Society (into whose repertoire he introduced several major works from the Second Viennese School), and conducted the Sussex University Chamber Choir and the Guildhall Vocal Ensemble (which he constituted by selecting outstanding London postgraduate singers).
Haig's work in the theatre is enhanced by his love and understanding of the human voice, and by his interests in movement and dance. Prior to his appointment at the Opera House in Usti nad Labem, he served as assistant conductor to a number of nationally-acclaimed opera productions in the UK (including, most notably, Britten's The Rape of Lucretia and Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites at the Guildhall), and also conducted semi-staged performances of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice and Monteverdi's Orfeo, as well as training the opera choruses of the Guildhall School and of the Apollo Opera Group.
Haig Utidjian has been gaining increasing recognition as an exponent of the Austro-Germanic, French and Czech symphonic and extended-chamber repertoires; as a committed and persuasive proponent of twentieth-century and contemporary music, with a substantial list of premieres to his credit; and as a conductor in a theatrical environment. His plans for future seasons include further appearances with Czech orchestras and with the Ensemble Orchestral du Festival Albert-Roussel, performances with The Ensemble Duparc (to include Edmund Rubbra's Rhapsody, nonets by Bax, Martinu and Eisler, octets by Francaix, Ferguson and Schwertsik, Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat, and a selection of works by students from Franco Donatoni's class at the Accademia Chigiana) and with the Guildhall Vocal Ensemble (including a concert performance of Chausson's La Legende de Sainte Cecile). He is also to appear in Central London with the Kensington Chamber Orchestra in December 2000, and to premiere the opera Thill de Flandre by Jacques Chailley, in association with the Entente Chorale de la Region de Dunkerque and the Orchestre Interconservatoire in France in April 2001.