Classical Music

Fabio Luisi Will Be the Dallas Symphony’s Next Music Director

Fabio Luisi replaces Jaap van Zweden.
Fabio Luisi replaces Jaap van Zweden. Barbara Luisi

After a lengthy, suspenseful search, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra finally announced Monday that it has found a new music director to replace Jaap van Zweden: Italian conductor Fabio Luisi. Luisi, 59, is currently music director of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Zurich Opera and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, an opera festival in Florence, Italy.

Luisi is primarily known for his work in opera. Although he has not had a permanent appointment with an American orchestra before, he served as director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York from 2011-17.

He has already promised, via DSO press release, to continue van Zweden’s tradition of presenting operas in concert, starting with Richard Strauss’ Salome in the 2019-20 season. Luisi also plans to make better use of the orchestra’s chorus.

Other aspects of Luisi’s tenure should be even more interesting. The same press release announcing his appointment also announced a new “10-year program to commission 20 new works for the orchestra,” half of them to be written by women. And Luisi is promising a special focus on American music, which will extend to the programs of guest conductors during his tenure.

There will be a bit of a delay before Luisi assumes his position in Dallas, as he clears the schedule. The new music director will appear once in spring 2019, assume the title of music director designate for the 2019-20 season and then lead the orchestra for four additional seasons, concluding in spring 2024. He will appear more frequently each year as the contract continues.

In a statement, Dallas Symphony Association Chairman Sanjiv Yajnik says that Luisi was the orchestra’s “top choice.” For now, the orchestra resisted any urges to go with a younger generation of rising talent; Luisi will turn 65 during his tenure.

But Luisi’s program of new premieres, commitment to women composers and opera experience suggest the Dallas Symphony will still see a different perspective from its new music director. And there’s another first for the orchestra with this appointment, too. He’s the first Dallas Symphony music director to design and sell his own line of perfume.
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Brian Reinhart has been the Dallas Observer's food critic since spring 2016. In addition, he writes baseball analysis for the Hardball Times and covers classical music for the Observer and MusicWeb International.
Contact: Brian Reinhart