Conductor Iván López Reynoso Makes U.S. Orchestral Debut with MSO

David Lewellen

Tagged Under: 2023.24 Season, Conductor, Guest Artist

Iván López Reynoso’s destiny was sealed when he saw Disney’s Fantasia at age 4.

“Being a conductor was why I studied music, not the other way around,” he remembers. Watching the famous animation of Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice as a child, “I heard the music, and I saw Mickey Mouse conducting the brooms, and then shaking hands with [conductor] Leopold Stokowski, and I said, ‘I want to do that.’”

Fantasia started him on a path whose latest step will be the Milwaukee Symphony, where López Reynoso will make his U.S. orchestral debut in February with a program of Revueltas, Beethoven, and Mussorgsky.

Along the way, he studied violin seriously and several other instruments briefly. His parents were engineers, and when he told them as a preschooler about his ambition to be a conductor, they didn’t know what to think. But, he says, they asked some musician friends for advice, and were told, “Have him study the violin and see what happens. He’s young; maybe he’ll get bored.” But his first lesson lasted an hour and a half.

The violin portion of his life lasted 20 years, including some professional playing — a background that is helpful when he works with orchestras. But he also developed a parallel career as a countertenor. That voice category uses a highly trained and well-supported falsetto to sing music more often associated now with the female alto range — but the male voice was often what 17th– and 18th-century composers had in mind.

He has never strayed from his main professional identity. “I’m a conductor who sings, not a singer who conducts,” he says. However, he sometimes does them at once — he has both conducted Handel’s Messiah and sung the alto arias in the same performance.

Staying in shape for singing is “like a sport,” he says. “You have to keep going, otherwise it’s not going to work when you start the engine all over again.” Even when he’s on the road to conduct, he has to make time for vocal exercises.

More than half of López Reynoso’s career so far has been in opera, and being a professional singer himself is an advantage. “It makes singers feel more comfortable with me because we speak the same language,” he says. He deeply understands that “every voice is a different instrument, and singers are the only musicians whose instrument is their body. I’ve never met a piano that had the flu or a violin that had COVID.”

Born and raised in Mexico, López Reynoso has spent much of his career there and in Germany. His U.S. debut came in the summer of 2022 when he led Rossini’s The Barber of Seville at the Santa Fe Opera, with several MSO musicians in the pit.

Personal connections on the program for his Milwaukee concert include music for the film Redes by Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, which will feature his countryman Jorge Federico Osorio as the soloist. The two have known each other for most of López Reynoso’s life (their families were friends), but these concerts will be the first time they have ever made music together.

“I’m happy to take this important step with Milwaukee,” López Reynoso says, “because it’s an amazing group. I’ve heard videos on the internet, and I know some of the players from Santa Fe.” He describes the concert as “an amazing opportunity to listen to this wonderful music and get to know this Mexican piece that’s simply extraordinary,” referring to the Revueltas. The film score will pair with Mussorgsky’s semi-programmatic Pictures at an Exhibition, and in the middle is the Beethoven, making “three different ways of writing music in the same program.”