Dr Michelle Castelletti
Artistic Director
Malta International Arts Festival

I believe in the strength and beauty of ideas.  I believe in the importance of the Arts, and the power of the Arts to transform people’s lives.  I believe in creativity and I am constantly intrigued by research and innovation.  Aren’t we lucky to be surrounded by such beauty and depth of emotion?  From the chair one sits on to the painting hanging on the wall, from the building we enter every morning to the music we listen to every day, we are constantly surrounded by Art.  How can we use this to better people’s lives and to make the world a more beautiful place to live in?   How can we make everyone understand the impact the Arts have on our everyday lives and the marvel of the possibility of being able to take in as many doses of it as we wish being at our fingertips? These are some of the questions that I ask myself and this is why I wish, hope and dare to believe I can make a difference.” Michelle Castelletti

Dr Michelle Castelletti is a conductor, composer and soprano; with a passion for cross-Art and site-specific curation.  She is the Artistic Director of the Royal Northern College of Music, as both an Arts Centre (across genres), and as a Conservatoire, as well as of the Malta International Arts Festival, in the journey leading towards European Capital of Culture 2018.  The last major project she was part of, was a multi-million redevelopment project for the new concert hall, during which closure she created projects and partnerships in different sites, galleries and museums.

Following her Associateships and Licentiateships in both Theory of Music and Performance, Michelle read for a BA (Hons) in Music Studies [with a 2-year undergraduate in Psychology], as well as a 3-year Diploma in Sacred Music at the University of Malta.  As a result of a Government scholarship, Michelle ventured to the UK where she gained her MMus in Conducting.  After placing first in the European Union STEPS Award, she completed a PhD, specializing in Conducting and the beautiful art of Orchestration, focussing on the long-discussed issue of re-orchestration, re-creating Mahler’s (unfinished) Tenth Symphony through a new performing edition made in the contemporaneous tradition of the Verein für Musikalische Privataufführungen, using Mahler’s own surviving sketches.

This has, since, been published by Universal Edition, Vienna, and Michelle’s new reconstruction of Mahler’s Symphony No 10 was out in the shops in 2015.  This was premiered by John Storgårds and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra at Korundi House of Culture, Finland.  The latest performance took place in Berlin.  Discussions for a world tour and a CD recording with BIS Records are currently underway.  She has a passion for research and was part of the research team responsible for creating international conferences at university.  She now sits on the Research Committee at the RNCM, also presenting at seminars and research fora.

Michelle is very passionate about conducting.  While still a student, she conducted the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert of premieres held at the National Theatre.  She has, since, conducted numerous concerts, including chamber, orchestral and choral works.  Her next performance with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra will be for the Valletta International Baroque Festival 2017.

Before moving up to Manchester, Michelle held a lecturing position covering subjects such as Harmony, Analysis, Aural Awareness, Conducting and Orchestration and was one of the principal conductors of the university, also responsible for all outward-facing musical activities, including the Jubilee Celebrations in Canterbury Cathedral (where she also had the honour of conducting the Canterbury Cathedral Choristers together with her own), and conferment of honorary degrees, for former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Willams, H.E. Justice of the Supreme Court, The Rt Hon the Lord Mance, legendary broadcaster Moira Stuart OBE, and internationally acclaimed author and illustrator of children’s books, Anthony Browne.

Michelle has also performed as a soloist in many countries, in very prestigious venues, and loves lyrical, dramatic roles [“It was hard to tell whether the emotion or the actual of singing of the notes was leading.  Impressive!”]She has also organised the musical aspect for the memorial services for very special people like Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw and Sir Michael Kennedy.  Last October saw the culmination of this in a memorial concert with a stellar cast of international soloists from around the world, (including Sir John Tomlinson, Dame Felicity Lott and Roderick Williams amongst many others) with the Hallé Orchestra, RNCM Orchestra and friends from the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra together with Sir Mark Elder and Sir Andrew Davis, who also conducted one of Michelle’s arrangements of a work by Britten.  This concert received FIVE STAR review on The Telegraph.

Michelle examines students at Conservatoire level, sits on the audition panels for the Royal Northern College of Music for entrance to the College as well as the prestigious Gold Medal Competition.  She chairs the Concerto Competition, the International Artist Diplomas Final Recitals, and the Masters Conductors’ final exams with Manchester Camerata. The James Mottram International Piano Competition falls within her department’s remit, as does The Platform – the creative educational programme for all RNCM students in the UK and abroad, with various partners [e.g. Mahler Chamber Orchestra, St-Martin-in-the-Fields, Academy of Ancient Music, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Opera North, Northern Ballet etc.]Michelle is often asked to form part of jury panels [e.g. British Composer Awards]and debate panels [e.g. the Creative Industries Federation].  Last November, she was invited by the Austrian Cultural Forum in London to form part of a panel to discuss contemporary music and audiences at Soundings – and last February was on another panel to discuss education and music at Wigmore Hall, together with Murray McLachlan, Guy Johnston and Jessica Duchen. Michelle has also lead away days on audience development.

Only last month she was co-organising a conference on diversity and inclusion together with the BBC, and was one of the speakers, which included BASCA CEO Vick Bain, BBC Radio 3 Controller Alan Davey, Sound and Music CEO Susanna Eastburn,, Southbank Director of Music, Gillian Moore, Toks Dada (programme co-ordinator, Town Hall and Symphony Hall, Birmingham), Chi-Chi Nwanoku (founder of the Chineke! Orchestra), and BBC Head of Diversity and Inclusion Tunde Ogungbesan.

Michelle has been very lucky to work with some exceptional artists in her life, and has worked closely with many institutions – including embassies [with the cultural attachés, and sometimes the Ambassadors themselves]– to help deliver projects of national and international standing.  She has also curated Study Days at Wigmore Hall.   Other projects she was involved in, include BBC R3 Young Artists Day, BBC R3 live In Tune and Music Matters programmes and BBC Proms Portraits.  Michelle has also been interviewed on BBC R3 and R6, and the BBC Six o’clock news, as well as major radio and TV channels in Malta, including national news.

Michelle is a Trustee of the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra, a youth orchestra based in Manchester, and of ORA, a newly-founded professional vocal consort by Suzi Digby CBE, commissioning new choral works as reflections of old masterworks.  ORA – and the first of four CDs released by Harmonia Mundi – was launched at the Tower of London in February 2016.  She is Director on the Board of Governors of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and Trustee of the Incorporated Society of Musicians Trust Fund.  Michelle is Member of the Creative Industries Federation and of the Oxford Union Debating Society.

For the last two years, Michelle has co-curated an international sonic arts festival with Future Everything in Manchester. She also forms part of What Next? North West and Culture on the Corridor.  Her past roles included the running of Sounds New Contemporary Music Festival, in Canterbury, Kent, as well as the International Composer Pyramid, a three-year European Union composition-based project.

Her latest festival welcomed Krzysztof Penderecki as resident composer, who also conducted the UK premiere of his monumental Seven Gates of Jerusalem, which received a FIVE STAR review on The Guardian.  Only last July, Arvo Pärt was her featured and guest composer for MIAF2016.

Michelle loves creating projects in beautiful, evocative buildings, galleries, museums and in atypical spaces to fuse visual art and sound, dance with word, projection with architecture.  One of Michelle’s site-specific curated project won the Times Higher Education Award for Innovation and Excellence in the Arts 2015.  In this 3-day residency with Imperial War Museum North, [After the Silence – Music in the Shadow of War], the museum was transformed – in quasi-installation fashion – into an sound and art gallery, featuring over 300 musicians, 85 works, and 25 world premières as well as newly-commissioned projection-mapping, imagery and footage to commemorate the anniversary of the First World War.

Following on from collaborations with Turner Contemporary in 2011/12, in 2013/14, Michelle created a 9-month concert series in art galleries and spaces in Manchester, and, subsequent to a successful collaboration with Manchester School of Art and Transport for Greater Manchester to create a public “living installation” on trams and stations for Manchester After Hours, this year, she curated a Shakespearian soundscape with a walk-through immersive experience with drama, poetry, historical talks, prose, music and light at the magnificent John Rylands Library to celebrate Shakespeare’s centenary with the original manuscripts including his original First Folio, and the copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1609) at the centre of her curation.

Other achievements include the ‘Destination Canterbury Award’ for bringing the most national and international recognition to Canterbury, in the Kent Culture Awards 2011.  Michelle was instrumental in bringing a massive Philharmonia Orchestra education project – The Universe of Sound – to Canterbury for three weeks, transforming the space within Canterbury’s largest library.  This interactive multidisciplinary project won the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Audiences and Engagement 2012/13.

Michelle is thrilled to be reading for a Masters of Studies in Literature and Arts at Oxford University, designed particularly for professionals, covering Visual Art, Literature, Architecture, Philosophy and History of Ideas in an interdisciplinary manner.  She has also just been admitted Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Michelle will always be very grateful to Janatha Stubbs for constant belief in her and her support.