Žak Ozmo

Music Director, Lutenist, Scholar

As a music director:
'excellent musicianship and an admirable understanding of Baroque performance conventions '- Gramophone

As a lutenist:
'searching intellect and wry imagination…beautiful, fluent playing' - Gramophone

Žak Ozmo is a music director, lutenist, and a scholar in historical performance. He is the founder-director of the period instrument ensemble L'Avventura London.

Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, former Yugoslavia, Žak first started his musical training at the age of seven on the classical guitar and had his first nationally broadcasted solo performance at the age of fourteen. In his late teens he moved from his war-torn native country to Canada where, along with completing an architectural diploma, his musical interests quickly turned to the lute family of instruments, performance practice, and related history and philosophy. Music was already a life-long passion, but now it became a solace, a joyful source of light in the midst of turmoil.

After being introduced to the world of the lute by Terry McKenna and having completed a bachelors degree in historical instrument performance at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, this pursuit then took him to the United States and Britain, and included studies with James Tyler, Pat O'Brien, and William Carter. Žak also studied conducting with Noel Edison, Lucinda Carver, and William Dehning, and musicology with Bruce Alan Brown and Giulio Ongaro, among others. He holds a doctorate in early music performance from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and has completed postdoctoral studies in the same area from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

Hailed by Early Music Today as a 'brilliant lutenist' and Classical Music magazine as an 'expert on early plucked instruments' Žak has performed as a continuo player, chamber musician, and as a soloist across Europe, North America, and Asia on the archlute, theorbo, Renaissance lute, and Baroque guitar. His performances include engagements with some of the world's finest ensembles, while currently much of his focus is on working with L'Avventura, in addition to appearances as a guest director of various ensembles, orchestras, and opera companies internationally. Recent projects also include a solo recording of equally-tempered music by Vincenzo Galilei with Hyperion Records.

In London Žak founded and directs L'Avventura London, a professional ensemble dedicated to a historically-informed exploration of repertoire from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. The majority of L'Avventura's projects are based on his original research, performing editions, and arrangements, and regularly include modern debuts of forgotten musical treasures, along with fresh takes on more familiar and much-loved masterpieces. Žak's performances with the group, both live and recorded, have been featured on BBC Radio 3, American NPR, Radio France, Canadian CBC, Australian ABC, Classic FM, German KulturRadio and MDR Figaro, Austrian ORF Radio Ö1, Belgium Radio Klara, Spanish Catalunya Radio and Russian Classic FM, among others; the press has praised his work as a musical director for 'excellent musicianship' and 'an admirable understanding of Baroque performance conventions' (Gramophone), and described L'Avventura's performances as 'engaging, entertaining…an enormous amount of atmosphere and character' (Opera News). L'Avventura's appearances include major festivals across the United Kingdom (including the York Early Music Festival, Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, Brighton Early Music Festival, Spitalfields Summer Music Festival, Petworth Festival, Cheltenham Festival, York Christmas Early Music Festival, and Gregynog Festival) and international performances in some of the world’s best known venues including the Kölner Philharmonie in Cologne, Grande Auditório Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh, among others. In 2014 Žak conducted L'Avventura London Orchestra, joined by the celebrated soprano Dame Emma Kirkby, countertenor Michael Chance, and the choir Chapelle du Roi, in a performance at the Queen's Chapel, St James's Palace, celebrating the three-hundredth anniversary of the ascension of the British royal family to the throne. L'Avventura's professional relationship with the Royal residence is now ongoing. L'Avventura currently records for Hyperion and Opella Nova Records.

In addition to his busy performing schedule, Žak has held a Visiting Professorship at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, where he taught classes in Creative Entrepreneurship and Music History, and a Visiting Fellowship at Goldsmiths, University of London. Before that, Žak was the Director of Early Music at the University of Hull. He has also been active as a lecturer in historical performance practice, collegium director, and lute teacher for various early music societies and at the University of Oxford, Royal College of Music in London, University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and the University of California at Fullerton. As an extension of his educational activities, in 2011 he formed the London Community Baroque Orchestra (now functioning as an educational arm of L'Avventura London) based at the Foundling Museum in London, which he also directs. The goal of the organization is to provide training in historical performance practice to its members and to present high-level musical performances. Žak has been a recipient of various prestigious awards, prizes, and scholarships including a Society for Theatre Research award for reconstructing and recording music from English ballad operas and the Dowland Prize for Lute at the John Kerr Competition in Kent.

Žak's writings on historical performance practice have been translated into French, German, Spanish, and Korean, and appear in some of the leading journals and magazines in the field. His affinity for re-discovering and reviving lost musical repertoires has led to an ongoing affiliation with the groundbreaking Ballad Operas Online database through Oxford University Digital Libraries, while his current projects for publication include an edition of eighteenth-century lute concerti for A-R Editions, as well as an upcoming performing edition (with Vanessa L Rogers and Berta Joncus) of Isaac Bickerstaffe' opera Love in a Village, to be published by Bärenreiter in 2017. Further, he frequently presents his research at conferences in Europe and North America; recent presentations include those at the 16th Biennial International Conference on Baroque Music in Salzburg; the SECEM, the Universidade Nova de Lisboa; the Handel, Purcell, and Literature conference at Senate House, University of London; the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies; and the Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society in Philadelphia (USA).

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© 2008 Žak Ozmo