James Conlon, one of today’s most versatile and respected conductors, has cultivated a vast symphonic, operatic and choral repertoire. Since his 1974 debut with the New York Philharmonic, he has conducted virtually every major American and European symphony orchestra. Through worldwide touring, an extensive discography and videography, numerous essays and commentaries, frequent television appearances and guest speaking engagements, Mr. Conlon is one of classical music’s most recognized interpreters.
Mr. Conlon is Music Director of the LA Opera and Principal Conductor of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra in Torino, Italy, where he is the first American to hold the position in the orchestra’s 84-year history. He served as Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival for 37 years (1979–2016) holding one of the longest tenures of any director of an American classical music institution, and is now Conductor Laureate. Mr. Conlon has also served as Music Director of the Ravinia Festival, summer home of the Chicago Symphony (2005–15); Principal Conductor of the Paris National Opera (1995–2004); General Music Director of the City of Cologne, Germany (1989–2002), where he was Music Director of both the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne and the Cologne Opera; and Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic (1983–91). He has conducted more than 270 performances at the Metropolitan Opera since his debut there in 1976. He has also conducted at Teatro alla Scala, Wiener Staatsoper, Mariinsky Theatre, Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, Teatro del Opera di Roma, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and Lyric Opera of Chicago.
As Music Director of LA Opera, Mr. Conlon has led more performances than any other conductor in the company’s history, with more than 50 different operas by more than 20 different composers to his credit. This season he conducts Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s Nabucco, Leonard Bernstein’s Candide in honor of the composer’s 100th birthday, and a new production of the 1774 Paris version of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice featuring the Joffrey Ballet. Highlights of his LA Opera tenure include conducting the Ring cycle in Los Angeles, initiating the groundbreaking Recovered Voices series, and spearheading Britten 100/LA, a citywide celebration honoring the centennial of the composer’s birth. His pre-concert lectures at LA Opera consistently attract capacity crowds. Highlights of his second season as Music Director of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra in Italy include a Brahms Symphony cycle, Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied, Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer in concert, and a celebratory Bernstein concert at the Ravenna Festival.
During the 2017-18 season Mr. Conlon also conducts the world premiere of a new work by Nico Muhly with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and returns to the Cincinnati Symphony. In Europe he conducts works by Zemlinsky and Schoenberg with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orquestra Nacional d’Espana, and Orchestre de Paris; leads the Deutsche Sinfonie Orchestra Berlin; and conducts Britten’s Billy Budd at Opera di Roma and Verdi’s Falstaff at Wiener Staatsoper.
In an effort to call attention to lesser-known works of composers silenced by the Nazi regime, Conlon has devoted himself to extensive programming of this music throughout Europe and North America. In 2013 he was awarded the Roger E. Joseph Prize at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for his extraordinary efforts to eradicate racial and religious prejudice and discrimination; in 2007 he received the Crystal Globe Award from the Anti-Defamation League; and in 1999 he received the Zemlinsky Prize for his efforts in bringing that composer’s music to international attention. His work on behalf of suppressed composers led to the creation of The OREL Foundation, an invaluable resource on the topic for music lovers, students, musicians and scholars, and the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices at the Colburn School. His appearances throughout the country as a speaker on a variety of cultural and educational topics are widely praised.
Mr. Conlon’s extensive discography and videography can be found on the Bridge, Capriccio, Decca, EMI, Erato and Sony Classical labels. His recordings of LA Opera productions have received four Grammy® Awards including Best Opera Recording and Best Engineered Album, Classical for Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles released on the PentaTone label, and Best Classical Album and Best Opera Recording for Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny on EuroArts. His recent recordings also include the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony in Nathaniel Dett’s oratorio The Ordering of Moses recorded live at Carnegie Hall on Bridge Records.
Mr. Conlon is among the five initial recipients of the Opera News awards and was honored by The New York Public Library as a “Library Lion.” His other honors include the Sachs Fund Prize from The ArtsWave Organization for his artistic achievements and outstanding contribution to the cultural life of Cincinnati (2016), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Los Angeles (2010), the Music Institute of Chicago’s Dushkin Award (2009), the Medal of the American Liszt Society (2008) and Italy’s Premio Galileo 2000 Award for his significant contribution to music, art and peace in Florence (2008). He holds four honorary doctorates. Mr. Conlon was named Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture and, in 2002, he received the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest distinction, from then-President of the French Republic Jacques Chirac.