Koen Kessels studied at the Antwerp Royal Flemish Conservatory of Music. He was appointed Music Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2010 and of The Royal Ballet from the start of the 2015-16 Season.
He made his Royal Ballet debut in 2008 conducting The Nutcracker. He has since returned every season, in such repertory as Giselle, Symphony in C and Raven Girl (world premiere), and in the 2014-15 season conducted the world premiere of Woolf Works.
He is a regular guest conductor for Opéra National de Paris, Dutch National Ballet, Vienna State Opera and has conducted for such companies as New York City Ballet, the Théâtre du Capitole, Teatro dell’ Opera di Roma, Teatro Real, Madrid, and the New National Theatre, Tokyo.
His ballet repertory includes Le Parc, Coppélia, La Source, Sylvia, Proust, Cinderella, Hurlevent, Hommage à Jerôme Robbins, Giselle, Bolero, La Valse, Suite en Blanc, L’Arlésienne, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, The Firebird, Apollo, Les Noces, Prodigal Son, Jewels, Romeo and Juliet, Carmina burana and The Prince of the Pagodas. DVD releases include Proust, Cinderella, Coppélia, Hommage à Jerôme Robbins and La Petite Danseuse with Paris Opéra Ballet, The Nutcracker with The Royal Ballet, and Cinderella with Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Opera repertory includes Saariaho’s L’Amour de loin (Antwerp Opera), Hosokawa’s Hanjo, Lens/Cave/Cherkaoui's Shell Shock (La Monnaie, Brussels), and operas by Mozart, Bizet, Verdi, Puccini, Britten and Maxwell Davies, among others.
Kessels is an honorary professor of Birmingham University, Artistic Director of Inspiratum and on the artistic direction team at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp. As Artistic Director of HERMESensemble he has collaborated with such composers as Abrahamsen, Bartholomée, Benjamin, Brewaeys, Ferrari, Henderickx, Hosokawa, Van Hove, Zev Gordon, Dusapin, Huber, Maresz, Murail, Pagh-Paan, Van Parys, Saariaho, Talbot and Yared.