Born in New York City in 1950, conductor James Conlon is both a graduate and a former faculty member of the Juilliard School of Music, where he made his New York conducting debut in a 1972 production of La Bohéme. His professional debut came a year earlier, conducting Boris Godunov at the Spoleto Festival. At the invitation of Pierre Boulez, Conlon made his New York Philharmonic debut in 1974; he has since appeared with every major North American orchestra. In 2004, he celebrated his twenty-fifth anniversary as music director of the Cincinnati May Festival, the longest-running choral festival in America.
In Europe, Conlon has served as principal conductor of the Paris National Opera (1996-2004), music director of the Gürzenich Orchestra (from 1991) and Cologne Opera (1989-2002), and music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra (1983-91).
Since his debut in 1976 with the Metropolitan Opera, which he has conducted on more than two hundred occasions, Conlon has appeared with many of the world's major opera companies, including Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
During the summer, Conlon teaches pre-professional musicians at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado and the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts. He also leads master classes and coaches and conducts at music competitions. Documentaries of his work with the Van Cliburn Competition and the Cincinnati May Festival have aired on PBS television. In 2005 he became music director of the Ravinia Festival, in Highland Park, Illinois; in 2006, he was appointed music director of the Los Angeles Opera. For a number of his appearances with leading American and European orchestras during the 2004/2005 concert season, Conlon programmed works of composers whose lives had been affected by the Holocaust.
In recognition of his efforts in behalf of the music of composer Alexander von Zemlinsky, Mr. Conlon was awarded the Zemlinsky Prize in 1999. He has also received a series of awards from the French government: in 1996 he was made an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres; later, he was promoted to Commander by the Ministry of Culture; and in 2002, President Jacques Chirac presented him with France's highest honor, the Légion d'Honneur.
James Conlon's extensive discography includes recordings for EMI, Erato, Capriccio, Sony Classical, and Telarc.