Celebrating Michael J. Kondziolka
For the past 36 years, Michael Kondziolka has worked at UMS, serving as the director of artistic programming and production since 1993. His artistic sensibility and curiosity, breadth of cultural and historical knowledge, and bold vision of what the performing arts can be has transformed and shaped UMS into what it is today.
Michael’s unbridled passion for the performing arts fuels his intellectual curiosity and ambition, and his curatorial vision pushed UMS to new artistic achievements that resonated far beyond Ann Arbor, garnering broad national and international recognition. Throughout his tenure, Michael worked to strengthen UMS collaborations throughout the University of Michigan, weaving the arts into the fabric of intellectual campus life and cultivating both new and lifelong arts patrons in the process. Through his unwavering day-to-day commitment to holding UMS to the highest standards, Michael has influenced and inspired the lives of countless current and former UMS colleagues.
Upon retirement from the University, Michael’s lasting artistic impact will be celebrated throughout the communities of UMS, the University of Michigan, and Ann Arbor, as well as throughout the performing arts field at large.
The entire UMS and University of Michigan community offers Michael our thanks and heartfelt congratulations, knowing that he will embrace future endeavors with the same devotion to beauty and art that he brought to all of us during his much-admired and celebrated tenure.
Revisit some memorable performances from Michael Kondziolka’s UMS tenure:
In a last-minute Hill Auditorium song recital substitution for ailing Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, UMS “discovered” another superstar, thanks to Michael Kondziolka’s connections: Polish contralto Ewa Podleś, whose staggering technical facility and wide range wowed UMS audiences.
Already a living legend and the greatest female singer to emerge from Cuba, Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa, made her long-awaited UMS debut at Hill Auditorium alongside sonero José Alberto “El Canario.” Five years later, UMS re-engaged Cruz to headline a Latin Dance Party that brought heat to the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center.
UMS remounted Lee Breuer and Bob Telson’s masterpiece The Gospel at Colonus, a reframing of the Oedipus tale featuring The Blind Boys of Alabama, J.D. and Jevetta Steele, and the Detroit-based Duke Ellington Centennial Choir, co-founded by UMS and led by music director Dr. Rudy V. Hawkins.
After a hiatus of almost 35 years, the Berlin Philharmonic returned to Hill Auditorium under the baton of artistic director and chief conductor Claudio Abbado, in an unforgettable program of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 and Schoenberg’s Pelleas and Melisande.
In collaboration with the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance and to celebrate the reopening season of Hill Auditorium after an 18-month renovation, UMS produced the 20th-anniversary performance of Songs of Innocence and of Experience by U-M professor emeritus and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom. The ensuing recording of the Hill Auditorium production garnered four Grammy Awards, including “Best Classical Album.”
Directed by Simon McBurney and co-produced with Tokyo’s Setagaya Public Theatre, UMS embarked on a longstanding relationship with the UK-based Complicite in the presentation of a staged adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes, the first of four UMS appearances by the ingenious company.
Launching UMS Renegade, UMS co-produced the 2012 tour of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s seminal 1976 opera Einstein on the Beach, An Opera in Four Acts, considered one of the most important operatic events of the 20th century. Michael Kondziolka was a driving force in the remounting of Einstein, and UMS presented the first public performances of the highly acclaimed international tour.
With a keen eye for French culture, Michael Kondziolka encouraged UMS to present Angelin Preljocaj and his Aix-en-Provence-based dance company, Ballet Preljocaj. Their five appearances over two decades, including 2012’s Blanche-Neige (Snow White) have been among audiences’ favorite dance presentations, and also introduced the company to other presenters in the US. Ballet Preljocaj was just one of many brilliant dance companies that Kondziolka championed over the past three decades.
In collaboration with The Gershwin Initiative and the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, UMS produced the premiere performance of the scholarly performing edition of the landmark score of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess before its Metropolitan Opera debut. The Chicago Tribune included the Hill Auditorium performance as one of “The 10 Best Concerts of 2018.”
UMS launched its third No Safety Net festival with The Plastic Bag Store, a bold statement interrogating the enduring usage of single-use plastics via a custom-built public art installation and immersive film experience conceived and directed by Robin Frohardt. The site-specific production was presented in collaboration with UMMA, the Graham Sustainability Institute, and the U-M Arts Initiative and connected audiences to larger issues that spoke to the heart of our humanity.