Nina Yoshida Nelsen has been appointed the new artistic director of Boston Lyric Opera, the company announced Monday. Nelsen, a mezzo-soprano and the cofounder of the Asian Opera Alliance, joined the company as an artistic adviser in 2021. She becomes the first person to hold the permanent artistic director position following the 2021 departure of general and artistic director Esther Nelson.
Nelsen, a graduate of Boston University, has performed the role of Suzuki in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” roughly 200 times throughout her career. She was originally booked as Suzuki for the planned fall 2020 production of “Butterfly,” which was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic; instead, she made her company debut as Mamma Lucia in fall 2021′s production of Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana.” With BLO, she participated in the yearlong “The Butterfly Process,” and was a dramaturg for the company’s fall 2023 production of “Butterfly,” which set the action in 1940s California.
Nelsen currently resides in Bloomington, Ind., with her husband, Jeff Nelsen (a professor of horn at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University), and their two sons. She plans to commute to Boston for her first year as artistic director.
In a statement provided by the company, Nelsen called BLO “a remarkable place to create and innovate,” and said she was “thrilled” to step into the new role. “Active, performing singers rarely have the opportunity to translate their expertise into positions of leadership at opera companies,” she said. “The future of our art form depends on integrating diverse perspectives into decision making.”
Nelsen assumes her role beginning Thursday.