Like many other conductors - Sakari Oramo and Andris Nelsons among them - Edward Gardner owes part of his glittering success to having been in the right place at the right time.
In Gardner's case this occurred at the Aldeburgh Festival in the summer of 2005, when the BBC Symphony Orchestra suddenly found itself without a conductor for an important concert, and sent for him.
"Yes, symphonically that was a big thing for me, for sure, to be with a big British symphony orchestra in a big British festival, that was great," he remembers. "I'd done a lot more opera up to that, but that really helped, putting my symphonic stuff on the map." And he now has a strong working relationship with the BBCSO.
That same summer of 2005 Edward also made his debut at another of the nation's prestigious international festivals when he conducted Scottish Opera's production of John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer in Edinburgh. He was invited back the next year to conduct the company in Richard Strauss's Elektra.
Opera marginally outweighs other aspects of Edward Gardner's work as a conductor, but he in fact began his musical career as a choirboy.
"I was born in Gloucester in 1974," he says. "A lot of the first concerts I went to were from the CBSO at Cheltenham Town Hall when it used to be on their circuit, and the concerts there were great.
"I was a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral, and went to the choir school there. I was very close to the cathedral organist John Sanders, and he taught me lots of Elgar pieces. He'd played the organ for Herbert Sumsion for Three Choirs Festivals, and Herbert Sumsion had played for Elgar, so it really seemed like some kind of connection.
"And then I went to King's in Cambridge, and then the Royal Academy after that. I studied conducting as a postgraduate, but I played piano as well."
Edward Gardner's first major career-break came in 2003, when he was appointed as music director to Glyndebourne on Tour from the 2004 season onwards. He found the challenges of performing in a range of venues away from the company's gracious Sussex home fascinating and rewarding.
"There are space-restrictions in some of the theatres that Glyndebourne use for touring, so that has to be redesigned to a certain extent. I mean, not much: Glyndebourne are very careful about the standard of stuff that goes out. It just might be a question of losing a few props, or condensing a few things at the side of the stage to make it a little tighter.
"Musically, you can do what you want, it's a totally fresh thing. We almost invariably have new singers, who might have been covering in the summer, but it's a totally new cast.
"That's a very strong ethic of Glyndebourne's, to have some sort of journey through being a young singer, maybe starting off in the chorus, then doing a few covers, and giving people roles on the tour, and then maybe in the festival back at base.
"Actually it happens to conductors as well. I started out as an assistant in the festival, years ago, and then I was given my chance on the tour, so it's the same kind of journey."
So in fact Edward Gardner's progress is comparable with that of conductors on the continent, where work in an opera-house is the prelude to an eventual expansion of activity to take in the world of orchestral music.
"I think so," he agrees. "I did more operatic stuff when I was starting out, and I still do a little more, but I love the idea of keeping the two going side-by-side, and make sure I have the right balance between the two."
The most spectacular career-move for Gardner thus far has been his move to the Coliseum in London last year, taking up the post of music director of English National Opera. With all the financial problems and internal politics with which the company has been bedevilled in recent years, many would regard this appointment as a poisoned chalice, but the conductor is loyally defiant.
"I don't really know what that means, and I have been asked it a lot, and I don't know how to answer that," he declares.
"I don't see why it should be. I don't feel like I have a negative working environment. I just try and do the best work I possibly can, and it feels like musically a very productive time for the company."
The financial hassles are historical. "But anything that's publicly subsidised to the extent ENO is, I think you have to be hardened against those kinds of discussions. They're always going to be there."
Edward Gardner's diary is bursting with engagements for years in advance, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago in September 2010 and the Metropolitan Opera in New York in October 2011.
"Operas need to be booked up very far in advance, more opera than concerts," he explains.
On Tuesday evening he conducts the CBSO at Symphony Hall in an attractive programme of Beethoven's Coriolan Overture, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (Christian Tetzlaff the soloist) and Mahler's Symphony no.1 (repeated on Wednesday afternoon). Does he have any special leanings towards particular composers in the symphonic repertoire?
"You know, I'm discovering more as I go along. At the moment I don't go for periods, I go for individual pieces, and Mahler's First Symphony I think is completely extraordinary, a world in itself.
"The fact that he wrote it when he was 28 - and an operatic conductor himself - it's very much a young man's piece. I think things like the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies will take me a longer time to get into, but I feel really good about doing this piece now."
Though still at a comparatively early stage in his career, the percentage of works Gardner comes to for the first time is already starting to decrease.
"I got through a hell of a lot of repertoire when I was first starting out. To be honest, you're never going to completely get away from conducting 'firsts', and I think you sort of get better at doing them, or knowing which pieces to do, or knowing how to do them, or something.
"But actually, this programme I've done all before, which is great, to come to a great orchestra with a big Mahler tradition and do this piece. I'm really looking forward to it, and two goes within two days."
Edward Gardner conducts the CBSO at Symphony Hall on Tuesday (7.30pm) and Wednesday (2.15pm). Details on 0121 780 3333.