Oleg Caetani is an opera and concert conductor, attaching equal importance to each in his work.
Caetani considers Nadia Boulanger to be the driving inspiration of his career. She discovered his talent, introduced him to music and gave him the philosophical approach to life – linked to Montaigne – that he still observes today.
At the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia in Rome he attended Franco Ferrara’s conducting class and studied composition with Irma Ravinale. At the age of seventeen he made his theatre debut with a production of Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and other madrigals that he organised himself.
After studying all of Shostakovich’s symphonies with Kondrashin at the Moscow Conservatoire, he graduated under Musin from the St Petersburg Conservatoire with top votes, conducting Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony.
A winner of the RAI Turin Competition and the von Karajan Competition in Berlin, he started his career at the Berliner Staatsoper Unter den Linden as coach and assistant of Otmar Suitner. His experience in one of the great German opera houses with all of Wagner and Strauss’ works gave a decisive turn to his repertoire.
Caetani’s sound experience, covering some thirty years, in the opera repertoire by Verdi, Musorgsky and Wagner (including several Ring productions) has influenced his approach to the great works, including symphony music, of the 20th century.
The first opera Caetani conducted at the age of twenty-four was Eugene Onegin in 1981, when he graduated from the St Petersburg Conservatoire. Since then, Tchaikovsky has played an important role in his career. He conducted new productions of The Maid of Orleans in Strasbourg (first performance in France in 1998), The Queen of Spades staged by Johannes Schaaf in Stuttgart and The Nutcracker in collaboration with the Swiss architect Mario Botta in Zurich. He recently recorded all of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies including Manfred (2008). The Financial Times wrote: “Do we need another set of Tchaikovsky symphonies? Having listened and re-listened to these live recordings, the answer is an emphatic yes. Caetani is not an indulgent Tchaikovskyan... he lets Tchaikovsky speak for himself: the contrapuntal rigour, the emotional tenderness, the occasional hint of hysteria within a classical structure... a treasure at any price.” Since conducting Oedipe by Enescu as his first professional opera performance in 1983, Caetani has endeavoured to conduct the wonderfully original music of Enescu whenever possible. As a result, following his performances of Oedipe at the opening of the 2009 Enescu Festival in 2009, he received the Legion of Honour of the Romanian Republic for performing Enescu’s music around the world.
Caetani has also devoted himself to recording and conducting other less-known composers of the 20th century such as Mosolov, Pizzetti and Gerhard.
His recordings of Tansman’s symphonies, released by Chandos, won three Diapason d’Or awards in 2006 and 2008.
Ever since he was a student, Shostakovich’s music has had a central role in his repertoire. Caetani translated the libretto of The Nose from Russian into German for his production in Frankfurt in 1991; he conducted the Italian premiere of the operetta Moscow, Cheryomushki in 2007 and has conducted many first performances of Shostakovich’s symphonies all over the world as well as recording Italy’s first complete cycle of Shostakovich symphonies with the Verdi Orchestra in Milan. These CDs have won several prizes including 10/10 from Classical Today in the USA, ffff from Télérama in France and the Record Geijutsu award in Japan.
Since 1999 Caetani has enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the Verdi Orchestra with which he has toured to South America (2003) and Spain (2009). In April 2008, he conducted the Verdi Orchestra in a concert presented by the Italian President to Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican which was recorded live for Eurovision TV.
In 2001 he made his debut at La Scala, Milan, with Turandot, returning there in 2005 to conduct Otello. He opened the 2001 season of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with Don Pasquale.
Recent engagements have included Khovanshchina, Vaughan Williams’ Sir John in Love, Madama Butterfly and La Bohème at the English National Opera, Der Fliegende Holländer at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, L’Enfant et les sortilèges at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, La Voix humaine coupled with Bluebeard’s Castle and Don Carlo in Cologne, Madama Butterfly in Berlin and Oslo and his debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with Tosca.
He regularly conducts orchestras such as the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Munich Philharmonic, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig, the Wiener Symphoniker (with which he has recorded Donizetti’s Poliuto for EMI-CBS), the Orchestre National de Radio France, the Mozarteum Orchester, the Konzerthaus Orchester Berlin, the RAI National Symphonic Orchestra, the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, the Spanish National Symphony Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony, the Yomiuri Orchestra, the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow and the Taipei Symphony Orchestra.
Forthcoming engagements include Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Oslo Opera and Tosca at the São Paolo Opera and Cincinnati Opera as well as various concerts with the Verdi Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony, the Tianjin Symphony Orchestra, the St Petersburg Philharmonic, the Bern Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg.