Riccardo Chailly was born into a musical family in Milan in 1953. He studied at the conservatories in Milan, Rome and Perugia and received specialised training in conducting from Franco Ferrara at his Siena summer courses. At the age of 20, Chailly became assistant conductor to Claudio Abbado at Milan's La Scala. He made his opera debut there in 1978 and was soon in great demand at the world's leading opera houses and concert halls.
From 1982 to 1989, Chailly was Principal Conductor of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, and from 1986 to 1993, was Music Director at the Teatro Comunale, Bologna. He was appointed Chief Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam in 1986 and became its Conductor Emeritus in 2002. From 1999 to 2005, he was Music Director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, and from 2005 to 2016 he was Chief Conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in 2005 and General Music Director at the Leipzig Opera.
Chailly’s deep-rooted connections to La Scala were reinforced when the company announced his appointment as its next Music Director, starting in 2017. Since the summer of 2016, he has also held the position of Music Director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Chailly continues to regularly conduct leading European orchestras, such as the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestre de Paris. In the United States, he has worked with the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As an opera conductor – in addition to his performances at La Scala – he has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Royal Opera House in London, Zurich Opera, the Bavarian and Vienna Staatsoper companies, Chicago Lyric Opera, and San Francisco Opera.
As an exclusive Decca artist for over three decades, his recorded repertoire ranges from the music of Bach and the great classical symphonic and operatic works to contemporary compositions. Many of the conductor's recordings for more than 150 albums have been crowned with prestigious awards, including two Echo Klassik Awards and Gramophone's Recording of the Year for his Brahms symphonies. Riccardo Chailly is a Grand’Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana, Cavaliere di Gran Croce, and a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion. He was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in London, and in France he was appointed Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.