Miami Conductor Breaks Gender Barriers

A homecoming for Cuban-American conductor performing at Arsht Center

"The Tales of Hoffman" Opera has it all: Love, loss, laughter. But there's more to the story, and it's happening behind the scenes when the curtain opens at the Adrienne Arsht Center.

For Cuban-American conductor Lucy Arner, The Florida Grand Opera's latest show in Miami, is a homecoming.

"It's one of the most exciting things that I've ever done," Arner said, "because of all the emotional connections."

Arner studied conducting at the University of Miami and while she no longer lives in South Florida, she still considers it home.

But that's just the prologue of the story. That's because the "Maestro" in "The Tales of Hoffman" is a rarity. Arner is one of just a handful of female conductors in the world.

"It's kind of a small club," she said.

In the 70 years of the Florida Grand Opera, Arner is just the second female conductor.

"This is a business in which males tended to dominate for many, many years," said Bob Huer, who hired Arner for "The Tales of Hoffman."

Unlike the symphony where the conductor is often visible on stage, Arner stands just above the orchestra pit. So most of the crowd doesn't notice that the conductor is a woman and therefore, she rarely gets surprised looks. However, she did face resistance to become a top conductor in the first place.

"For a long time they actively discouraged women from pursuing this," Arner said.

It was a difficult path for a woman who knew she wanted to be a conductor since she was 17. But thanks to her perseverance and talent, Arner has paved the way for others to join her exclusive club.

"I'm happy to say that I think it's getting bigger and bigger."

Follow Adam Kuperstein on Twitter at @akuperstein.

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