Dallas Symphony Association Chairman of the Board of Governors 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 (DSO), giving his first performance as Music Director Designate next spring. His tenure begins in the 2019-20 season, and 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 also 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 of this year, when his “brilliant and elegantly detailed” performance of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben highlighted “one of the most compelling guest conductor appearances in recent memory” (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.
To support 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 providing ongoing support for Luisi’s artistic activities, including touring and recording.
Luisi commented: “I am delighted and proud to be appointed Music Director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. 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.”
Dallas Symphony Association Chairman Sanjiv Yajnik responded: “It is such a thrill to announce the appointment of Fabio Luisi as the next Music Director. 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.
Alexander Kerr, Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, said: “Maestro Luisi is highly respected around the world, and we are proud to welcome him to Dallas. 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.”
Kim Noltemy, President & CEO of the Dallas Symphony Association, added: “The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s future is incredibly bright as we begin a new period of artistic growth. 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.”