Opera Scotland

Carlo Maria Giulini Suggest updates

Born Barletta, 9 May 1914.

Died Brescia, 14 June 2005.

Italian conductor.

Carlo Maria Giulini was one of the most important, if self-effacing, conductors of the second half of the 20th century. Disillusioned by the quality of some stagings, he stopped working in live opera in 1965, only resuming in 1982.

He grew up in Bolzano, in the South Tyrol, and learned the violin as a child. At 16 he moved to Rome and studied viola, composition and conducting at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. He played in the orchestra from 1930, but his conducting plans were suspended due to war service. He eventually conducted the Rome orchestra in 1944.

He first conducted opera at Brescia in 1950, quickly attracting the attention of veterans Arturo Toscanini and Victor de Sabata. He succeeded the latter at La Scala Milan in 1953, famously working with a team of great emerging directors and singers. A 1955 staging by Luchino Visconti of La traviata with Maria Callas was particulary successful.

He first worked in Britain at the 1955 Edinburgh Festival with the Glyndebourne company. He returned to Edinburgh regularly, though it was the 1965 Don Giovanni that turned him off opera. It was a co-production with Holland Festival, where he hated the director's concept and insisted on concert performances. When the show came to Edinburgh he devised the simplest of stagings. Fortunately he continued to return to Edinburgh in later years, with many memorable interpretations of choral and orchestral works. His interpretation of pieces such as the Verdi Requiem was very special.

His first London appearances were in 1956, with the Philharmonia, and he conducted concerts and recordings (including opera) with them for many years. He later worked with the LPO. His first appearance at Covent Garden was also in 1956, and he returned frequently to 1964, in stagings directed by Visconti and Zeffirelli. 

He continued to work with the Rome orchestra, and worked with orchestras in Germany and the Netherlands. An appointment as chief conductor of the Vienna Symphony ran from 1973-76, including an Edinburgh visit. He first conducted the Chicago Symphony in 1965, returning for over twenty years, and was chief conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic 1978-84.

It was in Los Angeles in 1982 that he returned to live opera, conducting a co-production with Covent Garden of Falstaff. This was directed by Ronald Eyre, who had extensive experience with the RSC but was an operatic novice. It has been available on DVD and CD. There are many excellent recordings of opera and orchestral works from earlier in his career.

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