Carmen-Helena Téllez – Artistic Director


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Carmen-Helena Téllez, artistic director of Kosmologia, has been called “a quiet force behind contemporary music in America today” by the New York journal Sequenza 21. She is a conductor, producer and interdisciplinary artist  who has earned a reputation nationally and internationally for her inventive support of living composers, her dissemination of Latin American art music, and her pioneering embrace of new modes of concert presentation involving music, the arts and the humanities, that the Washington Post has defined as “immersing and thrilling.” After more than fifteen years of activity designing interdisciplinary projects as a Professor of Music at Indiana University-Bloomington and at the University of Notre Dame, Carmen-Helena Téllez  initiated Kosmologia to engage in inter-artistic collaborations in Chicago, where she is now based.

Carmen-Helena Téllez is responsible for the commission, premiere and recording of many landmark works, such as Gabriela Ortiz’s corrido-opera ¡Unicamente la verdad!, the choral suite Sun-Dogs by Sir James MacMillan, Don Freund’s immersive Passion with Tropes, and the Missa ad Consolationis Dominam Nostram by Mexican composer Mario Lavista.  More recent premieres include works by Sven-David Sandström, Cary Boyce,  Gabriela Lena Frank,  and the oratorio Paradiso  by Robert Kyr (2016). She also co-commissioned the choral suite The Tower and the Garden (2018) by Gregory Spears, with conductors Donald Nally, Robert Geary and Mark Shapiro. She  is also responsible for the American Midwest premieres of John Adams’ oratorio El Niño and Osvaldo Golijov’s opera Ainadamar, works that she presented in semi-staged productions even as she continued  with concert presentations of masterworks such as Berlioz’s Requiem,  Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Nathan Gunn, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Stravinsky’s Les Noces.

Carmen-Helena Téllez composes new music as a component of her inter-disciplinary projects. In 2018 she transcribed Mozart’s Magic Flute for an orchestra of Andean Instruments, on commission by stage director Chía Patiño and the Teatro Nacional Sucre of Ecuador. In April 2019, she premiered a chamber vocal work on a poem by Robin Kirkpatrick, the librettist for her project on Dante, Journeying la Divina Commedia (2016)

Before establishing Kosmologia as a Chicago-based project, she created several interdisciplinary projects for the production group Aquava New Music Studio, including a video of Yehuda Yannay’s choral motet Le Campane di Leopardi, and a production of Orff’s Carmina Burana in the manner of an esoteric morality play for the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has performed in Chicago as the former resident conductor of the University of Chicago’s Contempo, and as the music director of Aquava New Music Studio, the Pocket Opera Players and Indiana University’s Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, in established venues like the Chicago Cultural Center, Harris Theater, Goodman Theater, Fullerton Theater of the Chicago Art Institute, the Bridgeport Arts Center,  Mandel Hall and the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago. In this last space she conducted the American premiere of Ralph Shapey’s oratorio Praise dedicated to the anniversary of the foundation of Israel, (the Chicago Tribune praised it as “vividly brought to life”) and the world premiere of the full version of Shulamit Ran’s Credo/Ani ma’ amin. With Aquava New Music she has toured nationally and internationally to South America, Mexico and Israel. She has also been a guest conductor with orchestras and opera companies in the US, Spain and Latin America, working with the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Orchestra of Tenerife, Spain, the New Music Ensemble of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela, and the Sacred Music Festivals of Quito and Bogota.

As a founder and co-director of Kosmologia’s parent organization, Aquava New Music Studio, Carmen-Helena Téllez has recorded works by Mario Lavista, Cary Boyce, John Eaton, James MacMillan, Menachem Zur and many others. She also recorded and produced thirteen CDs of Latin American art music for Indiana University’s Latin American Music Center,  distributed in the United States and Mexico. She has been supported by grants by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Indiana Arts Commission.

For a detailed view of her projects, please visit

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