Three days after childbirth, she conducted an opera

Three days after childbirth, she conducted an opera


norman lebrecht

December 20, 2021

This weekend, at Chicago Theater, music director Lidiya Yankovskaya conducted the end-of-run performance of Mark Adamo’s one-act opera Becoming Santa Claus. Not many realised that she had just given birth.

Here’s her account of it:

#babybump at last week’s opening, and 3-day-old #newbaby as I conduct this week’s closing!

I am so fortunate to work at Chicago Opera Theater with #bosslady Ashley Magnus, who believes in my having say over my body and trusts me to do my job, and Brittany Nelson who is always there supporting me 110% in any situation. Thank you to [assistant conductor] Eli Chen for being ready to step in beautifully for Friday’s show, and the entire cast, orchestra, and production team for their incredible performance throughout the run of #BecomingSantaClaus!

When I started conducting, multiple people told me that women shouldn’t be doing this job because of its “physical demands.” They never could explain to me what those extreme demands might be (they certainly aren’t much compared to childbirth!). When I had my first kid, multiple people told me that no one wanted to see a pregnant conductor, that you couldn’t possibly conduct while taking care of a newborn, and that-for a woman-having children and conducting are incompatible. I also realized at the time that I had virtually no role models in this endeavor, none at all in the United States (thank you to Simone Young for paving the way and her fellow Aussies Jessica Gethin and Natalie Murray Beale, along with many non-conductor performing colleagues, for your advice!). Many of you told me horror stories. But, I’ve also been so, so lucky to be surrounded by some exceptionally suportive colleagues at really great music organizations.

May this ridiculous, sexist stigma continue to disappear. Pregnancy and childbirth are a personal matter, which should not cause others to define a woman’s ability to perform on her behalf. Give women support when they need it and when they ask for it, but NEVER assume that pregnancy or parenthood would prevent a person from doing anything she did before.

I must acknowledge here that all this is possible due to the incredible Dan Schwartz, who truly sees having kids as an equal partnership and supports me every step of the way in all my endeavors. I also note that just as with anything else in life, not all women have the same level of health, privilege, and support. I feel extremely lucky. 



  • Maria says:

    Fine if you have the social support and the money to fund it, plus if the birth has been straightforward and not tiring. But it is not the case for most women and certainly she should not be pinned up as a role model in any career as an example of virtue, but the exception, and sincerley wish her and her family all the very best.

  • Guest says:

    Brava!!!! All the best!!!

  • Oliver says:

    What is so remarkable about conducting an opera instead of being with her 3-day old baby? I don’t get that.

    • JB says:

      I’m afraid that this will only continue with the rise of the woke mob who demand the eradication of white men from all public roles.

      • True North says:

        No, only the eventual phasing out of old dinosaurs with offensive, ignorant, and outdated views of how the world should operate (i.e., to THEIR benefit, and nobody else’s).

        • JB says:

          And so you assume every old white man is “offensive, ignorant, and outdated [sic]”. So much for the tolerant left

          • True North says:

            I don’t assume that at all – you’re doing that. And how do you know that I’m not an old white man myself?

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          Those ‘offensive, outdated and ignorant’ ideas have resulted from thousands of generations of women who ALWAYS put children before themselves.

          • True North says:

            You’ve got it wrong again. See below for the comment from “Guest,” who summarizes the issue more succinctly than I have the time or the interest to do at the moment.

    • Maria says:

      As a bloke, you just haven’t given birth to a baby! You have no idea. None of this does any pregnant women any favours.

    • Pagona Valsamy says:

      I agree
      What do we really value and why?

  • Gary Freer says:

    It’s unlawful for a UK employer to allow a woman to return to work within two weeks of giving birth. Seems pretty sensible.

    While wishing her and her family all the best, I wonder whether in future years this lady may come to regret the choice she made.

    • Maria says:

      I think she will.

    • Guest says:

      I really like those men who are sure they know better what an adult woman needs. Even better than the woman herself! She is a music director of a big opera house, but she still cannot know what is good for her.
      But not only those men KNOW better than the women what is good for them and for their future, they also always care about these women’s babies. They are so gentle and considering men. Where can I find one?

    • BRUCEB says:

      “…I wonder whether in future years this lady may come to regret the choice she made.”

      Why would she?

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Good luck to you; I was simply too exhausted with my children after birth that I couldn’t have even stood up for more than an hour after the demands of feeding, disrupted sleep and physical exhaustion. Not to mention the damn post-natal depression which hits many women.

    Sadly, I was never super-human. Just another tired mother who struggled.

    • True North says:

      I only hope you didn’t have anyone telling you what you should be doing or should not be doing, like some commenters on this site who incorrectly presume they have the right to judge a mother’s choices for her own family.

  • Chuck says:

    I attended Sunday’s performance of the opera. A number of times during the performance I couldn’t stop thinking how good the orchestra sounded, how well it was playing, how well it was being conducted, and how well the playing integrated with the action on the stage.