Since 2019, David Afkham is chief conductor and artistic director of the Orquestra y Coro Nacional de España, following a highly successful tenure as the orchestra’s principal conductor beginning in 2014. His work with the OCNE so far has featured critically acclaimed performances of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, Brahms’ Requiem, Haydn’s Die Schöpfung, as well as several world premieres and semi-staged projects with Wagner’s Die fliegende Holländer, Strauss’ Elektra, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle.
Born in Freiburg, Germany, in 1983, Afkham is in high demand as a guest conductor with some of the world’s finest orchestras and opera houses, and has established a reputation as one of the most sought-after conductors to emerge from Germany in recent years.
Future highlights as a guest conductor include with the Minnesota Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, as well as with the Vienna Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
As an opera conductor, Afkham made a noted debut at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 2014, with Verdi’s La traviata, later reviving the production for performances around the United Kingdom and Ireland for Glyndebourne on Tour. In 2017, he conducted Ginastera’s Bomarzo at Teatro Real in Madrid in a new production by Pierre Audi, to unanimous critical acclaim, and leading to an immediate reinvitation. In 2018-19, he made his German opera debut at Frankfurt Opera with Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, followed by Stuttgart Opera with Wagner’s Die fliegende Holländer. Productions since have included at Theater an der Wien with Dvorak’s Rusalka.
Afkham began piano and violin lessons at the age of 6 in his native Freiburg. At 15, he entered the city’s University of Music to pursue studies in piano, music theory and conducting and continued his studies at the Liszt School of Music in Weimar.
He was the first recipient of the Bernard Haitink Fund for Young Talent and assisted Maestro Haitink in major projects including symphony cycles with the Chicago Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw and London Symphony Orchestra. He was the winner of the 2008 Donatella Flick Conducting Competition in London, and was the inaugural recipient of the Nestle and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award in 2010. He was assistant conductor of the Gustav Mahler Jungendorchester from 2009 to 2012.