Even among conductors, Michael Christie is a mad multitasker. The rakish 33-year-old directs the Brooklyn Philharmonic—while he lives in Phoenix, runs the Phoenix Symphony and the Colorado Music Festival, and guest-conducts his way around the U.S. “At this point, I’ve just stayed in Brooklyn hotels,” Christie says of his time here. “I haven’t sorted out a permanent living situation yet. It’s totally crazy.”
But not uncharacteristic. Christie, like his Brooklyn predecessor Robert Spano, is a pro at enlivening orchestral programs, and in his two years he’s brought noticeable edge to the group. He’ll continue this fall with Tan Dun’s The Gate, an epic orchestral-theater work in which three tragic heroines plead for rebirth at the Last Judgment. Christie, as conductor, will also play the Gatekeeper.
The idea came from BAM’s Joseph Melillo. “He said, ‘Well, if you’re okay with having to act—like, seriously memorize lines, have your face up on video screens, and all that stuff—then I’ve got the piece for you,’” Christie recalls. “It’s just going to be an interesting challenge to add yet another dimension to keep track of.” He’ll likely get some coaching from Tan himself, who has also played the part. “He’s a very animated fellow, and had a very maniacal idea of the character,” Christie explains, adding, “I ask the players to do crazy stuff all the time. So it’s not unrealistic to be asked to do the same.”