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(June 9, 2015) – The Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai today announced the appointment of conductor James Conlon as the orchestra’s Principal Conductor beginning in the 2016-17 season. Mr. Conlon is the first American to hold the position of Principal Conductor in the Orchestra’s 84 year old history.  He will conduct eight weeks of programs including tours, recordings, concert operas, and choral works.

Mr. Conlon’s appointment as Principal Conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai marks his return to Europe in a prominent directorship following past positions including Principal Conductor of Paris National Opera from 1995 to 2004, General Music Director of the City of Cologne, Germany where he served as Music Director of both the Gürzenich Orchestra-Cologne Philharmonic and the Cologne Opera from 1989 to 2002, and Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic from 1983-1991.

Mr. Conlon will serve as Principal Conductor Designate during the 2015-16 season.  He has regularly guest conducted the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai since 2009–most recently in December 2014.

James Conlon said, “I am thrilled and honored to accept this invitation from the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai to serve as its principal conductor.  Over the past five years, I have conducted the orchestra, as a guest, with great pleasure.  I am enthusiastic at the prospect of collaborating with them on a regular basis.”

“It is a great achievement for the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai to have a Principal Conductor of such stature and musical ability as James Conlon,” said Cesare Mazzonis, Artistic Director of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai said.  “He has a great knowledge of the Italian culture, language and music as if he were a native son of Italy. We are very proud to welcome him to RAI and this great cultural institution.”  Mr. Mazzonis continued, “I have followed James Conlon’s career since he first began conducting in Europe, and have heard him lead numerous unforgettable and powerful performances including Verdi’s Requiem at Saint Denis’ Cathedral, Weber’s Oberon at La Scala, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina at Paris Opéra when he was Musical Director.  He is talented, sensible, strong and reasonable, and has the ability to communicate with musicians and audiences alike.  In James, we have chosen a Principal Conductor with a solid international standing and vast repertoire, who will continue to advance the orchestra in the coming years.”

The ORCHESTRA SINFONICA NAZIONALE DELLA RAI (OSN Rai) – the official ensemble of the Italian public broadcasting network Rai (Radiotelevisione Italiana) – is one of the world’s leading radio orchestras.  The 117 member orchestra presents 22 concerts in the Auditorium Rai “Arturo Toscanini” concert hall in Torino each season.  All OSN Rai concerts are broadcast and streamed live on the Italian public broadcasting network Rai Radio3 channel, many on the TV channel Rai5 and streamed on Rai Classica.

Since its creation in 1931, EIAR’s Orchestra (EIAR being Italy’s then newly born public radio authority) has been conducted by the world’s greatest musicians, such as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, Igor Stravinski, Paul Hindemith, Paul van Kempen, Karl Böhm, Sergiu Celibidache, Lorin Maazel, Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti and Riccardo Chailly.  The Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai was restructured in 1994 when the radio orchestras of Torino, Rome, Milan and Naples (which Mr. Conlon led in his first guest conducting engagement in Italy) merged into one ensemble.

From its early founding, the orchestra has been considered one of Italy’s great cultural institutions.  The first concerts of the newly created OSN Rai in 1994 were conducted by Georges Prêtre and Giuseppe Sinopoli.  Conductors who have more recently held positions include Juraj Valcuha (Principal Conductor 2009-2016) and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (Principal Conductor 2001-2007).

Torino, where the orchestra is based, is Italy’s fourth largest city located in the northern Piedmont Region.  The first capital of Italy, the city has a rich cultural heritage and classical music tradition, and is known for its theatres, opera houses, museums, libraries, palaces and piazzas.  Torino’s first formal opera house, the Teatro Regio, opened 1740, and was led by Arturo Toscanini from 1895-1898, during which time he conducted the world premiere of Puccini’s La Bohème in Torino; and the National University Library in Torino houses nearly 450 unpublished Vivaldi manuscripts.  The city is also known for its automobile industry, food and wine, the Shroud of Turin and for hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics.

In addition to its regular concert season, the OSN Rai performs symphonic and chamber concerts in major cities and at important festivals across Italy.  The orchestra has toured worldwide to Austria (Musikverein, Vienna), Bucharest (Festival Enescu), the Canary Islands, France, Germany (including Philharmonie Berlin), Greece, Japan, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Spain, South America and Switzerland (Tonhalle Zürich); and has performed at the Salzburg Festival and for Abu Dhabi Classics in the United Arab Emirates.  The OSN Rai frequently presents special concert programming at home, including the annual contemporary music series Rai NuovaMusica, which features new symphonic and chamber works, many of which are world or Italian premieres that have been commissioned specifically for the orchestra.

Since his 1974 debut with the New York Philharmonic, JAMES CONLON has conducted virtually every major symphony orchestra in Europe and America.  He is one of today’s most versatile and respected conductors.  He has been Music Director of Los Angeles Opera since 2006, the Cincinnati May Festival, America’s oldest choral festival, since 1979, and the Ravinia Festival, summer home of the Chicago Symphony since 2005.  Mr. Conlon is a frequent guest conductor at the Metropolitan Opera where, he has led 280 performances, including most recently Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in November 2014.  He has appeared at the Teatro alla Scala, the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, Teatro Real in Madrid, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, where he returns to lead Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame in June 2015.  Mr. Conlon is devoted to programming works by lesser-known composers suppressed by the Nazi regime.  His work has led to the creation of the OREL Foundation, the Recovered Voices series at LA Opera, and the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices at the Colburn School.

During the 2014-15 season, Mr. Conlon conducted the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai, NDR Sinfonie Orchester in Hamburg, Orchestre de Paris, Orquesta Nacional d’España, Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater, Toronto Symphony and New World Symphony.  At LA Opera, he led a trilogy of operas based on Beaumarchais’ Figaro plays including John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, in its West Coast premiere in a new production, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, and Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.  Mr. Conlon opens the 2015 Spoleto Festival in Italy conducting Cosi fan tutte which inaugurates a three-year Mozart/Da Ponte cycle directed by Festival director Giorgio Ferrari.

Next season, he leads Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina at the Staatsoper in Vienna and Verdi’s Luisa Miller at Teatro Real in Madrid.  In addition to his performances with the OSN RAI, he conducts the Deutsche Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre National de France, National Philharmonic of Russia, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony.  At LA Opera, he leads Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick, Bellini’s Norma, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.

Mr. Conlon was named Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture and, in 2002, he received the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest distinction, from then-President of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac.

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