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Bernard McDonald

Associate Professor of Music, G. Dewey and M. Maine Larsen Chair in Opera


Bernard McDonald's 2021-23 conducting engagements include ToscaLa rondine, and Turandot (Mobile Opera, Alabama) and two concerts with the Grinnell Symphony Orchestra. Recent engagements include Carmen (Opera Kelowna, British Columbia) and La Bohème (Mobile Opera, Opera Kelowna) Die ZauberflöteLe Nozze di Figaro (Opera Kelowna), Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi (Mobile Opera), The Merry Widow, The Magic Flute, Montemezzi’s L’incantesimo (US staged première), Gianni Schicchi, and Le Nozze di Figaro (Opera Theater of Pittsburgh); Cavalli’s Ormindo (Pittsburgh Opera); Don Giovanni and La Cenerentola (Bay View Music Festival, Michigan); Così fan tutte at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) in Glasgow; and Bizet’s Le docteur Miracle and La tragédie de Carmen (for the Dutch National Opera Academy) in Amsterdam and The Hague.

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 as conductor and vocal coach. 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 at Glyndebourne, 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, the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, and the Central Iowa Symphony. He has been on the faculty of the RSAMD and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). He has also worked as a vocal coach at the Manhattan School of Music and the Indiana University Opera Theater.

A native of Dumbarton, Scotland, his studies include piano performance at the RSAMD; opera at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, and CCM; musicology at the University of Glasgow; and a doctorate in conducting from Indiana University. Bernard McDonald is the Larsen Chair of Opera and an Associate Professor of Music at Simpson College.  To learn more visit bernardmcdonald.com



  • BA (piano performance), Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama
  • MMus (musicology), University of Glasgow
  • DMus (conducting), Indiana University
  • Artist Diploma (opera coaching), University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music