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Roberto Abbado (born 30 December 1954, Milan) is an Italian opera and symphonic music conductor. Currently he is Artistic Partner of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. In 2015 he has been appointed Music Director of Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain. From 2018 he's Music Director of the Festival Verdi in Parma. Previously he held the position of Chief Conductor of Münchner Rundfunkorchester (Munich Radio Orchestra).
Childhood and education
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 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.
In 1987 he was appointed music director of the Municipal Theatre of Santiago in Chile, a position held till 1989.
In 1989 he made his debut at Münchner Opernfestspiele of Bayerisches Staatsoper with Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur with Mirella Freni and Plácido Domingo. 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 2013 he took on tour the Neapolitan Teatro di San Carlo to Hong Kong with La Traviata staged by Ferzan Ozpetek.
In 2014 he made his Salzburg Festival debut with Donizetti's "La Favorite" with Elina Garanča, Juan Diego Florez and Ludovic Tezier.
In 2015 after his debut with Don Pasquale, he was appointed Music Director of Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain.
Also in 2015 he conducted Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" staged by Luca Ronconi at Rome Opera with Jessica Pratt and Stefano Secco. At same house he previously conducted Rossini's "Maometto II" staged by Pier Luigi Pizzi in 2014, Ponchielli's "La Gioconda" in 2012, Verdi's "Luisa Miller" in 1990 and the world premiere of Ferrero's "Charlotte Corday" in 1989.
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.
More recently he was on the podium of the Opera di Roma with Benvenuto Cellini and Andrea Chénier, of the Palau de les Arts in Valencia with A Midsummer Night's Dream, I vespri siciliani and Tancredi, of the Teatro Real in Madrid with Norma, of the Shanghai Opera House with La traviata, of the Rossini Opera Festival with Le Siège de Corinthe and of the Théâtre des Champs Elysées with Lucia di Lammermoor.
From 2015 Abbado has led the orchestras of San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta and Minnesota, the New World Symphony, the MDR-Sinfonieorchester of Leipzig, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Malaysian Philharmonic and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid.
Prizes and awards
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.
- Verismo Arias – Roberto Abbado/ Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice / Mirella Freni, 1992
- Puccini, Turandot- Roberto Abbado/Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Eva Marton/Ben Heppner/Margaret Price, 1993 Sony/RCA
- Donizetti: Don Pasquale - Roberto Abbado/Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Renato Bruson/Eva Mei/Frank Lopardo/Thomas Allen, 1994 Sony/RCA
- Rossini: Tancredi - Roberto Abbado/Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Vesselina Kasarova/Eva Mei/Ramón Vargas/Veronica Cangemi, 1996 Sony/RCA. Echo der Klassik 1997.
- Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi - Roberto Abbado/Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Vesselina Kasarova/Eva Mei/Ramón Vargas/Umberto Chiummo/Simone Alberghini, 1998 Sony/RCA. Pick of the Year 1999, BBC Music Magazine.
- Luca Francesconi: Cobalt Scarlet - Rest - Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI/Anssi Karttunen/Roberto Abbado, 2005 Stradivarius
- Florez, Arias for Rubini (Rossini/Bellini/Donizetti) - Roberto Abbado/S. Cecilia, 2007 Decca
- Garanca, Bel Canto - Elīna Garanča/Filarmonica del Teatro Comunale di Bologna/Roberto Abbado, 2009 Deutsche Grammophon. Echo der Klassik 2010.
- Flórez, L'amour - Roberto Abbado/Orch. Bologna, 2013 Decca. Diapason d'Or 2014.
- Garanca, Revive (Arie da opere) - Roberto Abbado/Orch. Valencia, 2016 Deutsche Grammophon
DVDs and Blu-ray
- Giordano, Fedora - Abbado Roberto/Freni/Domingo, 1997 Deutsche Grammophon
- New Year’s Concert 2008 – Roberto Abbado/ Orch. e Coro del Teatro La Fenice/Frittoli/Fraccaro/Furlanetto/Ezralow, 2008 Hardy Classic Video
- Rossini, Zelmira - Roberto Abbado/Florez/Aldrich/Kunde, 2009 Decca
- Rossini, Ermione - Roberto Abbado/Ganassi/Kunde, 2009 Dynamic
- Rossini, Mosé in Egitto- Roberto Abbado/Ganassi/Zanellato/Korchak, 2012 Opus Arte
- "Biondi y Abbado, nuevas batutas del Palau de les Arts de Valencia". ELMUNDO (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-10-27.
- "Sarà Roberto Abbado il direttore del Festival Verdi". Repubblica.it (in Italian). 2017-01-21. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
- Le nouveau dictionnaire des interprètes, 2015, p. 4.
- "● 2000-2009". www.criticimusicali.it. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
- "● 2010-2016". www.criticimusicali.it. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
- Pâris, Alain, ed. (2015). Le nouveau dictionnaire des interprètes. Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont. ISBN 978-2-221-14576-0
| Chief Conductor, Münchner Rundfunkorchester