Roberto Abbado

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Roberto Abbado is an Italian opera and symphonic music conductor. Currently he is Artistic Partner of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Previously he held the position of Chief Conductor of Münchner Rundfunkorchester (Munich Radio Orchestra) of the Bavarian Radio.

Roberto Abbado

Childhood and education[edit]

Born into a musical family, Mr. Abbado is a son of the pianist and composer Marcello Abbado, for more than twenty years Director of Conservatorio "G. Verdi" in Milan. His grandfather was the violinist and teacher Michelangelo Abbado and his uncle the conductor Claudio Abbado. In his teens, Roberto Abbado studied at Conservatorio "G. Rossini" in Pesaro and then piano with Paolo Bordoni and composition with Bruno Bettinelli at Conservatorio “G. Verdi” in Milan. He studied conducting with Mario Gusella in Milan and Franco Ferrara at Teatro La Fenice in Venice and Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. He also attended the last summer course of Hans Swarowsky in Vienna in 1975.


In 1975, Piero Farulli funded the "Vincenzo Galilei" Orchestra and Chorus at Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa to perform Bach Cantatas. Mario Gusella recommended Mr. Abbado to Piero Farulli in order to conduct the orchestra in a series of concerts.

In 1977, the musicians of Accademia di Santa Cecilia Symphony Orchestra asked Mr. Abbado to conduct a concert in Rieti, while he was still studying at Accademia, for a fellow student a privilege never to be. In the same year he won Second Prize at Malko Competition for young conductors in Copenhagen, promoted by Danish Radio and Television.

In 1978 he conducted concerts with leading Italian and Scandinavian orchestras such as Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice, Orchestra Sinfonica della Rai di Milano, Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, Aalborg Symphony Orchestra. His first appearance as opera conductor, aged 23, was in Macerata, Arena Sferisterio in 1978, in a new production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, featuring Renato Bruson, Cesare Siepi and Ilva Ligabue. He conducted the season opening night at Teatro La Fenice on December 1979 with a new production of Rossini's Il Turco in Italia.

In 1980 he conducted Verdi's Aida at Teatro Massimo in Palermo: one of the performance was attended by the Intendant of Wiener Staatsoper Seefelner, who immediately engaged Mr. Abbado.

In 1981 he conducted the world première of Flavio Testi's Il sosia at Piccola Scala in Milan. In the same year he conducted a new production of Rossini's La Cenerentola at Wiener Staatsoper, staged by Gian Carlo Menotti and featuring Agnes Baltsa, Francisco Araiza, Enzo Dara, and Giuseppe Taddei.

In 1982 he conducted Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia at Opernhaus in Zurich with Edita Gruberova and Araiza. In summer he conducted at Edinburgh Festival Rossini's La pietra del paragone staged by Eduardo De Filippo with Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro alla Scala. In November he conducted Verdi's Don Carlo at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona with a stunning cast including Montserrat Caballé, Elena Obratzova, José Carreras, Leo Nucci and Martti Talvela.

He made his debut at Teatro alla Scala in 1984 conducting Donizetti's Don Pasquale, in a production featuring Sesto Bruscantini in the title role and Lucia Aliberti. In the same house he also conducted the world première of Testi's Riccardo III in 1987, Ponchielli's La Gioconda in 1997, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor in 2006, the world première of Fabio Vacchi's Teneke in 2007 and Rossini's La donna del lago with Joyce Di Donato, Daniela Barcellona and Juan Diego Flórez in 2011.

In 1985 he made his Paris debut with Orchestre National de France and Yo Yo Ma as soloist. Mr. Abbado has conducted many leading orchestras in Europe, including Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Orchestre de Paris, Filarmonica della Scala, Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Dresden Staatskapelle, Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, NDR Symphony Orchestra (Hamburg), Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

Roberto Abbado

In 1987 he was appointed Director Titular of Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Chile, a position held till 1989.

In 1989 he made his debut at Münchner Opernfestspiele of Bayerisches Staatsoper with Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur with Mirella Freni and Plácido Domingo. In he also conducted there new productions of La Traviata and Aida, furthermore Manon Lescaut, Don Pasquale, Carmen and Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges. From 1991 to 1998 he served as Chief Conductor of Münchner Rundfunkorchester (Munich Radio Orchestra).

In 1993 he toured in Japan with Teatro Comunale di Bologna.

In 1994 he made his debut at Metropolitan Opera in New York with Adriana Lecouvreur. He also conducted there Giordano's Fedora with Freni and Domingo (new production) in 1996, Verdi's La Traviata in 2000, Verdi's Ernani in 2008. In USA he also conducted operas in San Francisco, Washington D.C., Houston.

In 1995 he made his debut at Opéra Bastille with Lucia di Lammermoor featuring Mariella Devia. He conducted his Carnegie Hall debut in 1996 with The Orchestra of St. Luke's, further he also conducted there the Philadelphia Orchestra and Boston Symphony.

In 1998 he conducted a new production of Verdi's I Vespri siciliani at Wiener Staatsoper, staged by Herbert Wernicke. In the same year he made his debut at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino conducting Rossini's Le comte Ory. He also conducted in Florence Verdi's Attila and I Lombardi alla prima Crociata, Henze's Phaedra and Donizetti's Anna Bolena.

In 1998 he made a successful Boston Symphony Orchestra debut, opening his symphonic career in the USA. He also conducted many concerts with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Washington D.C., Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

In 1999 he made his debut with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. In 2005 he became Artistic Partner of the Orchestra, the longest position in an artistic team ranking Jeremy Denk, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Edo de Waart, Christian Zacharias and Thomas Zehetmeir.

In 2003 he conducted a new production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra at Teatro Regio in Turin, staged by Graham Vick. He worked again with the English stage-director in Turin for Mozart's La clemenza di Tito in 2008, and at Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro for Mosè in Egitto in 2011. He also conducted for the same Festival Ermione in 2008 and Zelmira in 2009.

In 2008 he conducted the season opening night at Teatro Comunale in Bologna with Marschner's Der Vampyr, staged by Pier Luigi Pizzi. He also conducted the season opening night in 2013 with Verdi's MacBeth staged by Bob Wilson and in 2014 with Wagner's Parsifal staged by Romeo Castellucci.

In 2012 he conducted a new production of Berlioz's La damnation de Faust staged by Terry Gilliam at Teatro Massimo in Palermo.

In 2013 he took on tour the Neapolitan Teatro di San Carlo to Hong Kong with La Traviata staged by Ferzan Ozpetek.

He also premiered many new orchestral works of leading composers, including Claudio Ambrosini, Giorgio Battistelli, Niccolò Castiglioni, Aldo Clementi, Azio Corghi, Michele dall'Ongaro, Luca Francesconi, Ned Rorem, Steven Stucky, Giampaolo Testoni, Fabio Vacchi, Charles Wuorinen, and new operas by Lorenzo Ferrero and Marco Tutino.

Prizes and awards[edit]

In 2009 Mr. Abbado was appointed Conductor of the Year - "Franco Abbiati" Award by Associazione Nazionale dei Critici musicali, Italian top classical music award. In 2012 he won the "Franco Abbiati" Award - Best performance and production for Rossini Opera Festival Mosè in Egitto.


Cultural offices
Preceded by
Giuseppe Patanè
Chief Conductor, Münchner Rundfunkorchester
Succeeded by
Marcello Viotti