Fabio Luisi. Barbara Luisi

Arts & Entertainment

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Director Rose to Fame With the Metropolitan Opera

Fabio Luisi takes the baton from Jaap van Zweden.

A week after the DSO saw Jaap van Zweden out with Beethoven’s final symphony, they’ve announced a new leader: the Grammy-winning Fabio Luisi, who in 2016 got really into making perfume while waiting for the Metropolitan Opera’s director to finally retire. James Levine’s 40-plus-year tenure leading the opera was expected to end then, after sitting out many nights due to health issues. Luisi, the principal conductor long considered the next in queue, had shined as Levine’s understudy amid his absences. But Luisi did not renew his contract as principal conductor.

And Levine did not retire the next year, or the next. He worked until late 2017 when more survivors of his ongoing sexual abuse and misconduct— Levine’s former students, his colleagues— spoke out, leading devotees of the classical music world to question maestro worship.  The abuse had gone on before and during his four decades with the Met, investigators found; the first accusation dates back to 1979. Levine was fired by the Opera in March.

Luisi is currently Principal Conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, General Music Director of the Zurich Opera and Music Director of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Dallas audiences saw him with the DSO in March when he guest-conducted Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben.

“Maestro Luisi is highly respected around the world, and we are proud to welcome him to Dallas,” said Alexander Kerr, Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. “He comes to us with such a rich history of opera and symphonic experience. His elegant and refined style connected beautifully in performance, and I know he will be a visionary musical leader of the DSO.”

The Genoa-born artist is praised widely praised as an effective leader and sustainer of morale. He’ll take his place as Music Director Designate for 2019-2020 and then make it official the following season. His appointment is set to run through 2023-2024. Some highlights from his plans:

  • The DSO will launch a ten-year program to commission 20 new works for the orchestra from composers including Julia Wolfe and Steve Mackey. This commissioning project purports to yield at least ten new works by female composers.
  • The DSO will begin planning for international tours during Luisi’s tenure.
  • A renewed focus on rarely-heard works, opera-in-concert performances, American composers, and more choral-symphonic teamups, will mark the shift in leadership.

Press release after the jump:

 

Dallas, TX (June 4, 2018) – Dallas Symphony Association Chairman Sanjiv Yajnik and President & CEO Kim Noltemy announced today that conductor Fabio Luisi has been appointed to the Louise W. & Edmund J. Kahn Music Directorship of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, serving as Music Director Designate in the 2019/20 season. He assumes the title of Music Director in the 2020/21 season, succeeding Jaap van Zweden, who ended his decade-long tenure as Music Director in May 2018.
 
Best known to American audiences for his acclaimed work as Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and guest engagements with leading U.S. orchestras, Fabio Luisi currently holds three key European positions: Principal Conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, General Music Director of the Zurich Opera and Music Director of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. His previous orchestral posts include tenures as Chief Conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, General Music Director of the Staatskapelle Dresden, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the MDR Symphony Orchestra Leipzig and Musical Director of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. He is Music Director of the summer “Festival della Valle d’Itria” in Italy’s Martina Franca.
 
Luisi’s numerous honors include a GRAMMY® for Best Opera Recording, awarded in 2013 for his recordings of Wagner’s Siegfried and Götterdämmerung with the MET Orchestra, and he has been widely praised for the close artistic rapport and vibrant, lucid performances he inspires. Critics applaud his “unflappable savoir-faire” (Financial Times), “vivid, idiomatic conducting” (Wall Street Journal) and “distinguished and authoritative” leadership (New York Times), while in frequent guest engagements with the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, he has proven himself “the most sophisticated conductor to regularly visit this podium” (Philadelphia Inquirer) and “an artist of true distinction, an interpreter in possession of a bold, unique and clearly discernible voice” (Cleveland Plain Dealer).
 
Luisi was born in Genoa, Italy and currently resides with his wife, celebrated photographer and violinist Barbara Luisi, in New York and Zurich. Off the podium he is something of a renaissance man, whose passions range from literature and cinema to cooking and perfumery; his personal perfume line was featured on CBS Sunday Morning in 2015. As Vanity Fair observes, he is a “remarkable man, who in person is modest, impeccably turned out, and immensely likeable.”
 
Luisi first appeared with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 2002, and made his long-awaited return to the Meyerson Symphony Center on March 8, 2018, when his “brilliant and elegantly detailed” performance of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenlebenhighlighted “one of the most compelling guest conductor appearances in recent memory” (Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News).
 
Luisi will return to Dallas next spring to lead a special concert. He will begin his official tenure as Music Director Designate in the 2019/20 season and looks forward to taking on the title of Music Director in the 2020/21 season, when he will conduct the DSO for seven weeks. Luisi will expand his concert week count in Dallas throughout the initial five-year contract period, which runs through 2023/24. He will conduct concerts in the Texas Instruments Classical Series, programs in the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family SOLUNA International Music & Arts Festival and other performances throughout the North Texas community and beyond.
 
As one of today’s leading symphonic and opera conductors, Luisi will establish artistic initiatives to expand the depth and range of the DSO’s repertoire and offerings. Each season he will conduct opera-in-concert performances with the DSO, beginning with Richard Strauss’s Salome in 2019/20 and continuing with Verdi’s Otello in 2020/21.
 
Luisi will present rarely heard works that further spotlight the exceptional musicianship of the DSO musicians and highlight his expertise in a breadth of orchestral repertoire from many sources. There will be renewed focus on music by American composers, conducted both by the new Music Director and by visiting guest conductors.
 
Under Luisi’s supervision, the DSO will launch a ten-year program to commission 20 new works for the orchestra from composers including Julia Wolfe and Steve Mackey. This commissioning project will yield at least ten new works by female composers. The DSO will also begin planning for international tours during Luisi’s tenure.
 
The strong tradition that sees the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Chorus combine to present the great choral-symphonic repertoire will continue and receive new focus. Such programs will include major, rarely performed masterpieces such as Franz Schmidt’s Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln(2019/20) and other 19th– and 20th-century compositions.
 
Supporting the next generation of listeners, Luisi will also focus on education and community engagement. His time in Dallas will include work outside of the Meyerson to spark inspiration and collaboration around the city and in underserved areas.
 
In support of the new Music Director, the Dallas Symphony will establish a new Maestro Society. Charter members Diane and Hal Brierley, Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger, The Eugene McDermott Foundation, Shirley and William S. McIntyre Foundation and Margot and Ross Perot will launch this new tier with gifts of $100,000 annually, with the goal of ongoing support for Luisi’s artistic activities, including touring and recording.
 
“I am delighted and proud to be appointed Music Director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra,” said Luisi. “From the moment I met the orchestra again this spring, I felt a strong connection artistically and personally. These are supremely talented musicians, who welcomed me so warmly. Our performances were filled with great joy, and I look forward to working with them to share our mutual passion for this great music with audiences.”
 
“It is such a thrill to announce the appointment of Fabio Luisi as the next Music Director,” said Dallas Symphony Association Chairman Sanjiv Yajnik. “He is clearly one of the best music directors in the world and was our top choice. I am honored that he has accepted our invitation to become the next artistic leader of our great organization. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra has incredible artistic energy and creativity, and I have no doubt that Fabio is the ideal leader to continue that momentum and move us into the next era.”
 
Luisi was chosen following a two-year search by a 13-member committee chaired by Morton H. Meyerson and comprised of musicians, board, staff and community leaders.
 
“Maestro Luisi is highly respected around the world, and we are proud to welcome him to Dallas,” said Alexander Kerr, Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. “He comes to us with such a rich history of opera and symphonic experience. His elegant and refined style connected beautifully in performance, and I know he will be a visionary musical leader of the DSO.”
 
“The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s future is incredibly bright as we begin a new period of artistic growth,” said Kim Noltemy, President & CEO of the Dallas Symphony Association. “Maestro Luisi’s appointment as Music Director is evidence of the positive reputation and momentum of the orchestra. We look forward to sharing thought-provoking and exciting concerts with the citizens of Dallas and the surrounding areas, and, through touring and digital distribution, with audiences around the world.”
 
* *
 
In addition to his tenured posts, Italian conductor Fabio Luisi has appeared as guest conductor with such leading ensembles as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, NHK Tokyo, Munich Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala, London Symphony Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, and Saito Kinen Orchestra, as well as in all major opera houses worldwide. He has conducted Richard Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae and Die Ägyptische Helena for the Salzburg Festival, and his work for the Zurich Opera includes new productions of three Bellini operas and of RigolettoFidelioWozzeckand Verdi’s Messa da Requiem.
 
Luisi has recorded a wealth of orchestral repertoire from staples to rarities, with such major ensembles as the Staatskapelle Dresden, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Philharmonia Zurich, and Vienna Symphony. His distinguished discography includes the complete symphonies of Robert Schumann and Arthur Honegger, symphonic poems by Richard Strauss, and an award-winning account of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. He has also recorded the complete symphonies, and the oratorio Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln, by the largely forgotten Austrian composer Franz Schmidt. In addition to the GRAMMY® Award-winning “Ring” recordings, his operatic output includes Verdi’s AroldoAlzira and Jerusalem and Bellini’s I Puritani and I Capuleti e i Montecchi.
 
A Cavaliere of the Italian Republic and a Commedatore of the Ordine della Stella, Luisi has been recognized with the Vienna Symphony’s Golden Bruckner Medal and Ring. In 2013 he won Italy’s coveted “Premio Franco Abbiati” critics’ award, and in 2014 he was awarded the “Grifo d’Oro” by the City of Genoa, for his contributions to his native city’s cultural legacy.
 
About the Dallas Symphony Orchestra
 
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra presents the finest in orchestral music at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, regarded as one of the world’s premier concert halls. As the largest performing arts organization in the Southwest, the DSO is committed to inspiring the broadest possible audience with distinctive classical programs, inventive pops concerts and innovative multi-media presentations. In fulfilling its commitment to the community, the orchestra reaches more than 230,000 adults and children through performances, educational programs and community outreach initiatives. The DSO’s involvement with the City of Dallas and the surrounding region includes award-winning multi-faceted educational program, community projects, popular parks concerts and youth programming. The DSO has a tradition dating back to 1900, and it is a cornerstone of the unique, 68-acre Arts District in downtown Dallas that is home to multiple performing arts venues, museums and parks, the largest district of its kind in the nation. The DSO is supported, in part, by funds from the Office of Cultural Affairs, City of Dallas.
PREVIOUS MUSIC DIRECTORS OF THE DALLAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Hans Kreissig
1900-1905

Walter J. Fried

1905-1911

Carl Venth

1911-1914

Walter J. Fried

1918-1925

Paul van Katwijk

1925-1938

Jacques Singer

1938-1942

Antal Dorati

1945-1949

Walter Hendl

1949-1958

Paul Kletzki

1958-1961

Sir Georg Solti

1961-1962

Donald Johanos

1962-1970

Anshel Brusilow

1970-1973

Max Rudolf

1973-1974

Louis Lane

1975-1977

Eduardo Mata

1977-1993

Andrew Litton

1994-2006

Jaap van Zweden
2008-2018

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