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on stage

A melodious marriage A Brookhaven couple shares a passion for music story:

Curt Holman  


ew married couples take the concept of “making beautiful music together” quite so literally as Michael and Catherine Giel. The young husband and wife from Brookhaven pursue musical careers of striking breadth, without missing a note. Michael is principal conductor for the Buckhead-based Capital City Opera Company, where Catherine serves as the organization’s music director while programming and casting all the productions. She also works a day job as education manager of Clayton State University’s Spivey Hall, tutors singers and plays piano as an accompanist. Director of orchestras at Cambridge High School in Milton, Michael also plays violin with the Albany Symphony and viola with his string trio, Clairemont Strings. To stay musically fresh and creative, they also play in other bands in their spare time—when they have some. “We don’t focus on how many hours we spend on one thing or the other,” says Michael, 33. “We just think of ways to do everything we want—and still find time to let our dogs out. We have two opera-loving Pomeranians.” At home they also have a grand piano, a guitar, a clarinet, a viola, two violins, an electric violin, a ukulele and a box of harmonicas. They both appreciate the way their roles as music director and conductor at Capitol City Opera allow them to work together. “My favorite thing is when we have an opera coming up: I get a score, he gets his conductor score, and we sit down and go through the whole thing together,” Catherine says. “Michael marks up his score using a fascinating system of colored pencils. When I’m working on one myself, I have to know it backwards and forwards before I can lead the singers.” Donna Angel founded Capitol City Opera in 1983 to help local classically trained singers advance their careers by performing complete opera roles. “We still strive to put on the highest-quality production we can,” Catherine says. “We use singers on their way to big careers. It’s still a competitive audition process. And all of our tech people are highly experienced professionals.” Under Artistic Director Michael Nutter, Capitol City Opera produces full produc-


September/October 2013 | Simply Buckhead

Photo: Jessica Price

tions like September’s La Bohème, educational outreach performances and monthly “Dinner and a Diva” shows with operatic selections at Petite Auberge restaurant. No matter where he conducts, Michael deliberately presents himself as the alternative to the imposing, intimidating image of conductors. “I’m very serious when the house lights go down and the stage lights come up, but outside of that, I think I’m approachable. A lot of conductors will go to their dressing rooms during breaks or before they go to the podium, and keep themselves apart,” says Michael. “But I’m a musician: I’ll hang with other musicians. We’ll play three hours a night—if it’s not fun, it’s not worth it.” Catherine and Michael married in April

of 2011, but when they met in 2009, they did not find instant harmony. Fellow musicians introduced them, and they went out in a group. “The first time we hung out, we didn’t like each other at all,” Catherine admits. “Most of the group just sat there. I sang karaoke. Boyz II Men,” Michael says. “He was a little over the top—but I gave him a second chance,” Catherine says. Clearly, the encore was a hit. n

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Simply Buckhead September/October 2013  

Simply Buckhead is the definitive resource for Atlanta's most dynamic intown neighborhood. With a commitment to journalistic excellence, the...

Simply Buckhead September/October 2013  

Simply Buckhead is the definitive resource for Atlanta's most dynamic intown neighborhood. With a commitment to journalistic excellence, the...