2013/14 marks Xian Zhang's fifth season as Music Director of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, and in September 2013 she takes the orchestra to the BBC Proms for their debut at the festival in a programme of Verdi arias (with Joseph Calleja) and Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony. Since 2011, Zhang has been Artistic Director of the NJO: Dutch Orchestra and Ensemble Academy. Prior to this, she held the position of the New York Philharmonic’s Associate Conductor and was the first holder of the Arturo Toscanini Chair, having previously been Assistant Conductor with the orchestra.
In Europe Zhang works at the highest level as a guest conductor, appearing regularly with the London Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, Danish National and Swedish Radio Symphony orchestras, the Gothenburg Symphony, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Wiener Symphoniker, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and the Staatskapelle Dresden. Upcoming debuts include performances with the Rotterdam Philharmonic and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic orchestras, and Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai Torino.
Zhang continues to work frequently in North America and her recent appearances there have included concerts with Chicago, Washington’s National, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, New Jersey, Seattle, Atlanta and Indianapolis symphony orchestras. She ended 2011/12 with an acclaimed performance of Beethoven's Symphony No.9 with The Philadelphia Orchestra. She has also enjoyed a strong relationship with the orchestra of the Juilliard School and conducted the world premiere of Augusta Read Thomas' Jubilee at Lincoln Center in April 2010. Elsewhere, Zhang has recently debuted with the China Philharmonic, Guangzhou Symphony, Tokyo Symphony and Melbourne Symphony orchestras, and works this season with the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra.
Equally established as an opera conductor, Xian Zhang made a successful debut with La bohème for English National Opera in spring 2007 and an equally impressive debut with De Nederlandse Opera in Robert Lepage’s double-bill of Stravinsky’s Renard and Le Rossignol in January 2012. Last season she conducted Le nozze di Figaro as part of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, and this season includes La forza del destino for Washington National Opera and Nabucco for Welsh National Opera (including performances at the Savonlinna Opera Festival). Further ahead, she will make her debut at La Scala in autumn 2014.
Throughout her career Zhang has championed Chinese composers, particularly the works of Chen Yi (including Momentum). In May 2008 she completed a major six-concert tour of China with the Orchestra of the Juilliard School during which Chen Yi's Ge Xu was performed in Shanghai, Beijing and Suzhou. She also conducted Huang Ruo’s Fanfare with the New York Philharmonic.
Born in Dandong, China, Xian Zhang made her professional debut conducting Le nozze di Figaro at the Central Opera House in Beijing at the age of 20. She trained at Beijing’s Central Conservatory, earning both her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees, and served one year on its conducting faculty before moving to the United States in 1998. Winning the Maazel/Vilar conducting competition in 2002 effectively launched her career.