Donald Runnicles, Music Director and Principal Conductor of the San Francisco Opera since 1992, is also Music Director of the Grand Teton Music Festival, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, with which he has made a series of superior recordings for Telarc. In 2009 he will become General Music Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, as well as Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Symphonic work is close to the maestro's heart, as are chamber music and song recitals, when his schedule allows. He conducts several weeks in Atlanta each season, and this year returns to the Berlin Philharmonic, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Proms, in addition to a return engagement with the New World Symphony in Miami.

Highlights of Mr. Runnicles's 2007-08 season include new productions of Wagner's Tannhäuser and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte with the San Francisco Opera, where he also launches the company's new "Ring" cycle with Das Rheingold in June and leads a revival of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. The maestro returns in the spring to the Vienna State Opera, as he does each season, for performances of Der Rosenkavalier and of Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer. A further season highlight will be his return to the Metropolitan Opera in February where he leads a new production of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes. Runnicles's international career was launched from that podium when he conducted Berg's Lulu at short notice in 1998.

In Atlanta, where Maestro Runnicles is a popular and critical favorite, he conducts four weeks of concerts, including such repertoire as a new suite from John Adams's Doctor Atomic, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and the Goretzki Symphony No. 3, which will be recorded. In May, returning to the Berlin Philharmonic for the massive Berlioz Requiem, he augments the great orchestra's forces with those of the famed Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

Each summer Mr. Runnicles conducts three or four weeks of concerts at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming, as well as chamber concerts with members of the impromptu resident orchestra - an ad hoc ensemble of some of the nation's finest players.

In 2005 Donald Runnicles led the internationally acclaimed world premiere of John Adams's Dr. Atomic in San Francisco, and last season he made return appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic, Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He made his debut with the Dallas Symphony, led the Deutsche Oper Berlin in two complete "Ring" cycles, and conducted three Carnegie Hall concerts with the Orchestra of St. Luke's.

Donald Runnicles was born in Scotland and was educated there and at Cambridge University; soon afterwards he went to Germany to work in opera. He learned his art from the ground up, starting by coaching singers and attending rehearsals in Mannheim, Germany. He made his North American debut in 1988 conducting Berg's Lulu at the Metropolitan Opera, and in 1989 was named General Music Director of the City of Freiburg, Germany. He made his 1991 Glyndebourne debut conducting Don Giovanni in the production observing the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death. He has also conducted frequently at the Salzburg and Bayreuth Festivals, leading Erich Korngold's opera Die tote Stadt in Salzburg in 2004, a performance recorded by Orfeo d'Or.

Soon after San Francisco Opera asked Mr. Runnicles to conduct two Wagner Ring cycles in 1990, he was invited to become SFO's Music Director, succeeding Sir John Pritchard. Since then Mr. Runnicles has led more than 50 productions in the house, including the highly-acclaimed world premiere of John Adams's Doctor Atomic and the North American premiere of Olivier Messiaen's St. François d'Assise. He also led the world premieres of Conrad Susa's The Dangerous Liaisons and Michael Korie and Stewart Wallace's Harvey Milk. Other notable productions include rarities like Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein's The Mother of Us All, Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Busoni's Doktor Faust, and Janá?ek's fable The Cunning Little Vixen, as well as a wide variety of repertory staples.

In recent seasons the maestro has led San Francisco stagings of Madama Butterfly, Otello, Hänsel und Gretel, La Damnation de Faust, Die Meistersinger, Kát'a Kabanová, Falstaff and Turandot. He recently conducted Billy Budd, Tosca, Der fliegende Holländer, and Pique Dame. Donald Runnicles has led the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in two recordings: Harvey Milk and the Grammy-nominated Orphée et Eurydice by Gluck.

Mr. Runnicles's unique bond with New York's esteemed Orchestra of St. Luke's was apparent from their first concert together in 1998. In 2001 he was named Principal Conductor, a title he held until 2006, succeeding Sir Roger Norrington. In addition to Carnegie Hall season concerts, Mr. Runnicles frequently conducts the OSL at its summer home, the Caramoor Festival, outside New York City.

Donald Runnicles's recordings with the Atlanta Symphony include a critically acclaimed new concert disc with soprano Christine Brewer singing Strauss and Wagner, the Mozart Requiem, Orff's Carmina Burana, and the Beethoven Ninth Symphony. Also in his discography are a highly praised live recording of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde released in 2007 by Warner Classics, with Christine Brewer and John Treleaven; Britten's Billy Budd with Bo Skovhus, Neil Shicoff and the Vienna State Opera; a Grammy-nominated recital of German Romantic opera arias with tenor Ben Heppner; "Ring" excerpts with the Dresden Staatskapelle; Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel; Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi; and a disc with soprano Jane Eaglen of works by Strauss, Wagner and Berg.

Mr. Runnicles has ongoing musical relationships with some of the finest orchestras and opera companies in the U.S. and Europe. Among those in the U.S. are the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony and the New World Symphony. He is a frequent guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, North German Radio Orchestra Hamburg (NDR) and Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Munich. He appears annually in Great Britain at both the BBC London Proms and the Edinburgh Festival, and each year he works at the Vienna State Opera. He has also led productions in the opera houses of Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Milan, Munich, Paris and Zurich.

Among Donald Runnicles's awards are the OBE, bestowed during his 50th-birthday gala at the San Francisco Opera, and an honorary degree from Edinburgh University.
This biography was most recently edited by...
maestro - 17 Jun 2009