Robert Houssart was born in Haarlem, Netherlands and raised in England. He studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, and at the Royal Northern College of Music. In 2018 he was appointed conductor on the staff of the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen, a newly created position. Alongside his frequent performances in Copenhagen, he has appeared across Europe and around the world.
In 2016 he stood in at short notice to conduct Strauss’ Salome (in Stefan Herheim’s production) with the Kongelige Kapel/Royal Danish Orchestra, and since then his performances with this orchestra have included Weill’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, Puccini’s La Bohème, Tosca and La Fanciulla del West, Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus/Flagermusen, Bizet’s Carmen and Verdi’s Rigoletto as well as performances at the Royal Danish Ballet of Blixen. Concert appearances have included a Schoenberg series (1. Kammersymphonie, Pierrot Lunaire), and concerts of Mozart and Ravel, Respighi, Fauré and Vaughan Williams with the Kongelige Kapel, live on Danish Radio.
Robert’s feeling for new music has brought him collaborations with many extraordinary composers, among them Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Thomas Adès, Hans Abrahamsen, Jonathan Harvey, Jonathan Dove, John McCabe, Rufus Wainwright and Johann Johannsson. In October 2019 Robert conducted the world premiere performances of Abrahamsen’s first opera, Snedronningen (The Snow Queen) at the Royal Danish Opera. The show was listed as one of the Notable Performances of 2019 by Alex Ross in The New Yorker. He also conducted several performances of Abrahamsen’s acclaimed chamber work, Schnee.
In 2018 Robert gave the Danish premiere of Thomas Adès’ new opera, The Exterminating Angel. Working with an entirely new cast, and collaborating closely with the composer, the performances were spectacular, with his conducting described as ‘divine’ by the composer. Robert also conducted a new production in 2016 of Adès’ first opera, Powder Her Face, which won the Reumert Prize for Årets Opera/Opera of the Year.
His conducting debut was at the Adelaide Festival, giving the Australian premiere of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre in a production by La Fura dels Baus. Further guest engagements have included a new production of Les contes d’Hoffmann at the Staatstheater Mainz, Madama Butterfly and The Adventures of Pinocchio (Jonathan Dove) for Opera North, Hänsel und Gretel for Opéra de Rouen, Bernstein’s Wonderful Town for the Hallé, Le nozze di Figaro with the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra, Figaro for Longborough Festival Opera, Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Aalto-Theater Essen, and the world premiere of the community opera Ludd and Isis (Richard Taylor) for the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. In 2018 Robert led Alexandra Spencer-Jones’s new production of Kurt Weill’s Street Scene at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Robert also made a debut with the Athelas Sinfonietta in Copenhagen, and returns to Athelas twice in 2020.
Robert worked on the music staff of La Monnaie, Brussels, at English National Opera and at Opera North, at Teatro Colòn, Buenos Aires and the Opéra-Comique in Paris. He was a regular guest Studienleiter in Vienna at Theater an der Wien, in repertoire by Berlioz, Rossini, Schubert, Ives and Stravinsky, as well as for the world premiere of Anno Schreier’s Hamlet. At the Longborough Festival he assisted Anthony Negus on Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen and Tristan und Isolde.
As assistant to Michael Boder, Robert worked on a repertoire of some of the major works of the 20th century (Berg Lulu, Stravinsky Rake’s Progress, Schoenberg Erwartung, Ligeti Le Grand Macabre, Strauss Salome, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Der Rosenkavalier, Messiaen Turangalila among others). He also worked closely with Sir Mark Elder, Alexander Vedernikov, Paolo Carignani, Frédéric Chaslin, Edward Gardner, Julien Salemkour, and with directors such as Graham Vick, Christof Loy, Stefan Herheim, Valentina Carrasco and Alex Olle (La Fura dels Baus), Kasper Holten, Claus Guth, Richard Jones, Tim Albery and Terry Gilliam.
As an organist he appeared in the early 2000s all over Europe and in the USA, China and Japan. He held positions at Westminster and Gloucester Cathedrals, and made a number of recordings, as well as winning prizes for improvisation at competitions in Paris, Saarbrücken and St Alban’s and appearing as soloist with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, and the Orchestra of the Paris Conservatoire.