Dale Johnson was named Minnesota Opera’s Artistic Director in 1994, after having served as the music administrator, chorusmaster and artistic director of the company’s touring and education program. Prior to coming to Minnesota in 1984, he was one of the nation’s foremost vocal coaches. As Artistic Director, Dale advises the President and General Director on all aspects of artistic planning, including repertoire, performers, conductors, directors, and designers. His commitment to new works has led The Minnesota Opera to such commissions as Libby Larsen’s Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus, Evan Chen’sBok Choy Variations and Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath, which had its critically acclaimed world premiere in February 2007. He also champions the cause of 20th- and 21st-century repertoire as evidenced by the Company’s productions of Glass’s and Moran’s The Juniper Tree, Antheil’s Transatlantic, Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, Sondheim’s Passion, Poul Ruders’ The Handmaid Tale, Adams’ Nixon in China, Petitgirard’s Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man and Jonathan Dove’s Pinocchio. In 2007, he announced a cutting-edge repertoire program which will include three world premieres and three revivals of major contemporary works over the next decade.
In 1998, Mr. Johnson was instrumental in the creation of the Minnesota Opera Resident Artist Program, a training program for talented young singers, and in 2000, articulated an artistic philosophy for the Company based on works of the Bel Canto period. Johnson, an Ohio native,began piano lessons at an early age and also became accomplished at the French horn and organ. He received his Bachelor of Music from Mount Union College in Ohio and a Master of Music from Manhattan School of Music. After college, he pursued the career of an opera coach, studying with many outstanding coaches in New York. He was one of three pianists in the country to win a Gramma Fisher Fellowship to study at the American Institute for MusicalStudies in Graz, Austria. He was also a recipient of a National Institute for Musical Theater opera coaching grant to study with legendary Metropolitan Opera Coach Joan Dornemann, with whom he developed his love for the Bel Canto era repertoire. Dale has served as coach and pianist for such companies as Santa Fe Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Wolf Trap Opera Festival, Opera Omaha, Colorado Opera Festival and Lake George Opera. In the summer of 1999 he was asked by The Berkshire Opera Festival to create a young artist program along the lines of The Minnesota Opera RAP program. He has been a frequent judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and is a consultant for many other national opera competitions.