Gianluigi Gelmetti, the celebrated Italian conductor who was Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra from 2004 to 2008, has died in Monte Carlo at the age of 75.

Gianluigi Gelmetti

Gianluigi Gelmetti. Image supplied.

Born in Rome in 1945 to a pianist father and a poet mother, Gelmetti studied at the famous Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. It was there, at the age of 16, that Sergiu Celibidache saw something in the young Gelmetti and let him conduct an orchestral rehearsal. That informal audition must have gone well, because Celibidache became his teacher soon after.

Gelmetti went on to make debuts with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and from 1989 to 1998 he was the Principal Conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra as well as the Schwetzingen Festival.

Gelmetti is best known for his time as Musical and Artistic Director of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, from 2000 to 2009, where he championed lesser-known and forgotten works including the world premieres of Marie Victoire by Ottorino Respighi (written in 1914 but never performed) and Marilyn (1980) by Lorenzo Ferrero; La fiamma (1933) by Respighi; Sakùntala (1921) by Franco Alfano; and Iris (1898) by Pietro Mascagni.

From 2012 to 2016, he was Principal Conductor of the Orchestra Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo. He was also a fixture at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, where he conducted a world-premiere of the unedited, five-hour version of William Tell.

He leaves behind a rich legacy of recordings, including releases on EMI, Sony, Naxos and Decca. Unsurprisingly Rossini features heavily, including highly-praised recordings of Zelmira and Eduardo e Cristina as well as filmed versions of Un ballo in maschera, La forza del destino and a celebrated Il barbiere di Siviglia starring Juan Diego Flórez and Ruggero Raimondi.

Emma Dunch, CEO of Sydney Symphony Orchestra, paid tribute to Gelmetti saying: “The Sydney Symphony Orchestra is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Gianluigi Gelmetti. His tenure as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director with the Sydney Symphony from 2004–2008 is fondly remembered by our musicians and audiences alike. A true artist, Maestro Gelmetti was celebrated across the globe for his prodigious skill and great passion for music. We are honoured to have shared the stage with such a phenomenal musician whose time was marked by artistic accomplishment – including a cycle of the complete Beethoven Symphonies in 2007, concert presentations of Puccini’s La Rondine, a truly special orchestral tour to his homeland in 2008, performances in Japan as part of our 75th anniversary celebrations, and numerous recordings. We extend our condolences to Maestro Gelmetti’s family – Vale, Maestro.”