Tobias Picker has drawn commissions from and performances by the world’s leading musicians, orchestras, and opera houses. The New Yorker has called him “a genuine creator with a fertile, unforced vein of invention”; The Wall Street Journal, “our finest composer for the lyric stage”; and BBC Music Magazine has described him as “displaying a distinctively soulful style that is one of the glories of the current musical scene.”
His operas have been commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera (Emmeline, 1996), LA Opera (Fantastic Mr. Fox, 1998), Dallas Opera (Thérèse Raquin, 2001), Metropolitan Opera (An American Tragedy, 2001), San Francisco Opera (Dolores Claiborne, 2013), and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (Awakenings, forthcoming). His operas have also been produced by the New York City Opera, San Diego Opera, Opéra de Montréal, Chicago Opera Theater, Covent Garden, Opera Holland Park, English Touring Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, and many other companies.
In 2015 Opera Theatre of Saint Louis mounted a major new production of his Emmelinethat won universal acclaim as “a work of gripping emotional intensity and extraordinary musical expressivity” (the Dallas Morning News), “one of the best operas written in the past 25 years (The Wall Street Journal), and “the greatest American opera of the 20thcentury (the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’s premiere of Picker’s sixth opera, Awakenings, scheduled for its June 2020 festival season, was postponed when the festival was canceled during the coronavirus pandemic. Awakenings is based on the best-selling book of that title by Oliver Sacks about survivors of a sleeping sickness pandemic between 1915 and 1926 that killed 1.6 million people worldwide.
In 2019 the Boston University Opera Institute’s New England premiere ofDolores Claibornewas recorded by Albany Records for release in 2020. The world premiere performance of Fantastic Mr. Fox, his family opera, was released by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Odyssey Opera in Spring 2019 on the BMOP label, and it won the 2020 Grammy award for best opera recording. A Naxos recording of Picker’s 1983 melodrama The Encantadas, narrated by the composer, and his Opera Without Words, a recent co-commission by the National and Nashville Symphony Orchestras, is forthcoming. His extensive discography also includes albums devoted entirely to his works on Nonesuch, Sony Classics, Virgin Classics, Angel, Chandos, Ondine, Albany Records, Wergo, and Tzadik. Individual works have appeared on Sony Classics, Angel, and Ondine albums.
Tobias Picker has had symphonic works commissioned and performed by the BBC Proms, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Opéra de Montréal, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Vienna Radio Symphony, and Zurich Tonhalle, among many others. In addition to three symphonies, he has composed concertos for violin, viola, cello, and oboe, four piano concertos, and a highly acclaimed ballet, Awakenings, also based on the book by Oliver Sacks, commissioned by the London-based Rambert Dance Company. His catalog also includes much chamber music. An accomplished pianist, he has performed as soloist in performances of his piano concertos and chamber works with major orchestras and chamber ensembles around the world.
He has received prestigious awards throughout his career and was recently elected to lifetime membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has served as composer-in-residence for the Houston Symphony, from 1985 to 1990, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and the Pacific Music Festival. In 2010 he founded Opera San Antonio, and he served as its artistic director until 2015. He has since been artistic director of the world-renowned Tulsa Opera. He is married to Aryeh Lev Stollman, novelist, neuroradiologist, and librettist for his forthcoming operas Awakenings and The Danish Girl. His music is published exclusively by Schott.