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Conductor Marcello Viotti dies

Marcello Viotti, an Italian conductor with strong Swiss roots. www.marcello-viotti.ch

Swiss-born conductor Marcello Viotti, musical director of Venice’s La Fenice Theatre, has died at the age of 50.

This content was published on February 17, 2005 - 16:53

Viotti conducted renowned orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the English Chamber Orchestra, and performed at opera houses around the world.

Viotti died on Wednesday in a Munich hospital after suffering a stroke last week.

Born to Italian immigrants in western Switzerland in 1954, Viotti studied the piano, cello and singing at the Lausanne Conservatory. He made his conducting debut in nearby Geneva with a wind ensemble that he founded in 1974.

In 1982 he won first prize at a renowned conducting competition in Italy, which launched his international career.

He rose to prominence as chief conductor of the Turin Opera. Viotti served as artistic director of the Lucerne Theatre in Switzerland and conducted orchestras in several German cities.

Last year he quit his position as conductor in Munich in protest at plans to shut down the orchestra in 2006. Viotti had notably directed a successful concert cycle with Munich’s Radio Orchestra, entitled Paradisi Gloria, devoted to 20th-century choral music.

Venice, New York, Vienna

At Venice’s La Fenice Theatre, where he had been musical director since 2002, Viotti won acclaim for his production of Jules Massenet’s Thais.

Other productions included Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata and Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Viotti made his debut at the Met in New York in 2000 with Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. He later returned for La Bohème and La Traviata.

He gave his last public performance on February 5, when he conducted Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma at the Vienna State Opera.

Viotti was due to conduct new productions in Venice, Salzburg and Zurich later this year.

The world of music praised Viotti as a leading light of his generation.

"He will live on not only because of his high professional standard and his musical talents, but also his warm personality and generosity," said Alexander Pereira, director of Zurich’s Opera House.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

1954 - Viotti was born to Italian immigrants in Switzerland.
1982 - first prize at a conducting competition in San Remo.
1987-92 - artistic director of Lucerne’s Opera House.
1998 - chief conductor of Munich’s Radio Orchestra.
2002 - music director at Venice’s La Fenice Theatre.

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