Žak Ozmo is a music director, conductor, lutenist, and a scholar in historical performance based in London, and Memphis, TN. He is the founder-director of the British period-instrument ensemble L’Avventura London.
Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, former Yugoslavia, Žak first started his musical training at the age of seven on the classical guitar and had his first nationally broadcasted solo performance at the age of fourteen. In his late teens he moved from his war-torn native country to Canada where, along with completing an architectural diploma, his musical interests quickly turned to the lute family of instruments, performance practice, and related history and philosophy. Music was already a life-long passion, but now it became a solace, a joyful source of light in the midst of turmoil.
After being introduced to the world of the lute by Terry McKenna and having completed a bachelors degree in historical instrument performance at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, this pursuit then took him to the United States and Britain, and included studies with James Tyler, Pat O’Brien, and William Carter. Žak also studied conducting with Noel Edison, Lucinda Carver, and William Dehning, and musicology with Bruce Alan Brown and Giulio Ongaro, among others. He holds a doctorate in early music performance with the academic field in musicology from the USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles, and has completed postdoctoral studies in the same area from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
Hailed by BBC Radio 3 and Early Music Today as a ‘brilliant lutenist’ and Classical Music magazine as an ‘expert on early plucked instruments’ Žak has performed as a continuo player, chamber musician, and as a soloist across Europe, North America, and Asia on the archlute, theorbo, Renaissance lute, and Baroque guitar. His performances include engagements with some of the world’s finest ensembles, while currently much of his focus is on working with L’Avventura, in addition to appearances as a guest director of various ensembles, orchestras, as well as theatre and opera companies internationally. Recent projects also include a solo recording of equally-tempered music by Vincenzo Galilei with Hyperion Records (‘searching intellect and wry imagination…beautiful, fluent playing’ – Gramophone).
In London Žak founded and directs L’Avventura London, a professional ensemble dedicated to a historically-informed exploration of repertoire from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. The majority of L’Avventura’s projects are based on his original research, performing editions, and arrangements, and regularly include modern debuts of forgotten musical treasures, along with fresh takes on more familiar and much-loved masterpieces. Žak’s performances with the group, both live and recorded, have been featured on BBC Radio 3, American NPR, Radio France, Canadian CBC, Australian ABC, Classic FM, German KulturRadio and MDR Figaro, Austrian ORF Radio Ö1, Belgium Radio Klara, Spanish Catalunya Radio and Russian Classic FM, among others; the press has praised his work as a musical director for ‘excellent musicianship’ and ‘an admirable understanding of Baroque performance conventions’ (Gramophone), and described L’Avventura’s performances as ‘engaging, entertaining…an enormous amount of atmosphere and character’ (Opera News). L’Avventura’s appearances include major festivals across the United Kingdom (including the York Early Music Festival, Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, Brighton Early Music Festival, Spitalfields Summer Music Festival, Petworth Festival, Cheltenham Festival, York Christmas Early Music Festival, and Gregynog Festival) and international performances in some of the world’s best known venues including the Kölner Philharmonie in Cologne, Grande Auditório Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh, among others. In 2014 Žak conducted L’Avventura London Orchestra, joined by the celebrated soprano Dame Emma Kirkby, countertenor Michael Chance, and the choir Chapelle du Roi, in a performance at the Queen’s Chapel, St James’s Palace, celebrating the three-hundredth anniversary of the ascension of the British royal family to the throne. L’Avventura’s professional relationship with the Royal residence is now ongoing. L’Avventura currently records for Hyperion and Opella Nova Records.