Conductor and pianist Bernard McDonald garnered wide-ranging experience as a vocal coach, assistant conductor, and chorus master with major opera companies in America, Europe and Far East before embarking on a freelance career. He succeeded Robert L. Larsen as Director of Opera at Simpson College in the Fall of 2011, where he holds the G. Dewey and M. Maine Larsen Chair in Opera.
Upcoming engagements as conductor include Così fan tutte at Opera Theater of Pittsburgh. Recent engagements as conductor include The Magic Flute, Montemezzi’s L’incantesimo (US staged première) and Gianni Schicchi for Opera Theater of Pittsburgh; Cavalli’s Ormindo at the Pittsburgh Opera; Don Giovanni and La Cenerentola at the Bay View Music Festival, Michigan; Così fan tutte at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) in Glasgow, Le nozze di Figaro for Opera Theater of Pittsburgh; Bizet’s Le docteur Miracle and La tragédie de Carmen (De Nieuwe Opera Academie) in Amsterdam and The Hague. Recent appearances on piano include his debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, in recital with mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson and tenor John Aler.
Professional training at the Merola Program of the San Francisco Opera led directly to an invitation to join the music staff of the New York City Opera. He was subsequently Head of Music and Chorus Master at the Florida Grand Opera in Miami. As Chorus Master of Glyndebourne until 2005, he prepared over twenty-five productions to great critical acclaim for a host of internationally renowned conductors: highlights include Idomeneo with Sir Simon Rattle, Die Zauberflöte with Sir Charles Mackerras and Otello with Vladimir Jurowski.
He has also worked with, among others, the Aspen Music Festival and School, the New National Theatre Tokyo, the Netherlands Opera, the Netherlands Radio Choir, and the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. He has been on the faculty of the RSAMD and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).
A native of Dumbarton, Scotland, his studies include piano at the RSAMD; opera at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, and CCM; musicology at the University of Glasgow, and conducting at Indiana University.