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After growing up in Tunisia, where his mother was a school teacher, he graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Art in Rome in 1953. He acted in productions of Luigi Squarzina, Orazio Costa, Michelangelo Antonioni and others. In 1963, he directed his first play and since then has worked almost exclusively as a director.
Ronconi is considered one of Europe's most influential theatrical directors. He has worked for renowned companies, such as the Burgtheater in Vienna (The Bacchae by Euripides, 1973; The Birds by Aristophanes, 1975; The Oresteia by Aeschylus, 1976), Teatro alla Scala in Milan (1974 Die Walküre and 1975 Siegfried by Wagner; Don Carlos by Verdi, 1978; Les Troyens by Berlioz, 1980, with Dunja Vejzovic as Didon), the Vienna State Opera (Il viaggio a Reims by Rossini, 1988), the Rossini Festival in Pesaro and the Salzburg Festival (Die Riesen vom Berge [I giganti della montagna] by Luigi Pirandello, 1994; Don Giovanni by Mozart, 1999).
Ronconi managed the Teatro Stabile di Torino from 1989 to 1994, where he directed an imposing edition of Karl Kraus' The Last Days of Mankind, with more than sixty actors, staged in the Lingotto (1991). The play was performed soon after the First Gulf War and its anti-militaristic content was evidently tied to that conflict.
Ronconi collaborated with important stage designers, among them Pier Luigi Pizzi (The Bacchae, Die Walküre, Siegfried), Luciano Damiani (The Birds, The Oresteia, Don Carlos), and Ezio Frigerio (Les Troyens). He also inspired the architect Gae Aulenti to design certain of his productions (Il viaggio a Reims). Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld also created the costumes for some of Ronconi's stagings (Les Troyens).
His operatic productions include Carmen (1970), Das Rheingold (1979), Nabucco (1977), Il trovatore (1977), Norma (with Renata Scotto, 1978), Macbeth (1980), La traviata (1982), Aïda (1985), L'Orfeo (1985 and 1998) Don Giovanni (1990 and 1999), The Makropulos Affair (1993), The Turn of the Screw (1995), Tosca (1997), Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1998), Lohengrin (1999), L'incoronazione di Poppea (2000), Il trittico (2008), and Intolleranza (2011).
- Verdi: Ernani (Freni, Domingo; Muti, 1982) [live]
- Verdi: Aïda (Chiara, Pavarotti; Maazel, 1985) [live]
- Verdi: Macbeth (Zampieri, Bruson; Sinopoli - Berlin 1987) [live]
- Rossini: Guillaume Tell (Studer, Merritt, Zancanaro; Muti, 1988) [live]
- Puccini: Tosca (Guleghina, Licitra, Nucci; Muti, 2000) [live]
- Puccini: Il trittico (Frittoli, Marrocu, Machaidze, Lipovšek, M.Dvorsky, Nucci; R.Chailly, 2008) [live]
- IMDb entry on Luca Ronconi
- Official biography (in Italian)
- Excerpts from Luca Ronconi's production of Tosca on YouTube.