Ari Pelto, Music Director of Opera Colorado, is widely known for performances that have been called poetic, earthy, vigorous and highly individual. He is in demand in opera houses and with symphony orchestras throughout the United States. At age of 24 Pelto was appointed Assistant Conductor at the Spoleto Festival and has gone on to conduct on stages worldwide. His international appearances include symphonic performances with the Bochumer Philharmoniker, productions of Le Nozze di Figaro and Falstaff at New National Theatre of Tokyo, and Faust at the Teatro Nacional Sucre in Quito, Ecuador.
In 2004 he made his highly-praised debut with New York City Opera conducting La Traviata, after which he became a regular guest conductor, returning for productions of Madama Butterfly, La Boheme, and Carmen.
In 2015, Pelto was named Opera Colorado’s first ever Music Director, where he has conducted acclaimed performances of Don Giovanni , Madama Butterfly, Aida and the recent world premiere of Lori Laitman’s long-awaited work, The Scarlet Letter, a recording of which will be released in fall 2017 on the Naxos label. In upcoming seasons at Opera Colorado Pelto will lead productions of La Fanciulla del West, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Boheme, Falstaff, and the world premiere of Gerald Cohen’s new opera, Steal a Pencil for Me, based on a true love story set in a concentration camp during WWII.
Highlights of his 2015/16 season included Aida at Utah Symphony and Opera, for which the Salt Lake Tribune raved “Whether in the grandeur of the triumphal scene or the exquisite beauty of the Nile scene, one couldn’t have asked for a more inspiring performance of Verdi’s score,” a double bill of La Voix Humaine starring Patricia Racette and Gianni Schicchi at Chicago Opera Theater, and return appearances at Atlanta Ballet and at Opera Memphis. He conducted a variety of symphonic programs with orchestras in the US, including Omaha Symphony and the NYU Symphony.
Other highlights include A Streetcar named Desire and Salome at Virginia Opera, The Rake’s Progress at Portland Opera, and Rigoletto, Don Pasquale, Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Don Giovanni at Opera Memphis where he serves as Principal Guest Conductor, La Boheme at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, The Cunning Little Vixen at Chautauqua, Rusalka and La Boheme at Boston Lyric Opera, Romeo et Juliette at Minnesota Opera, The Magic Flute, Le Nozze di Figaro and Hansel and Gretel at Portland Opera and Hansel und Gretel at Utah Opera.
From 2000-2002 he was Assistant Conductor of the Florida West Coast Symphony (now the Sarasota Symphony). In addition to conducting over 30 concerts in Sarasota, Pelto also was a frequent guest with the Florida Orchestra and the Toledo Symphony and lead tours of the Western Opera Theatre (the touring company of San Francisco Opera) conducting La Boheme and Cosi fan tutti in over 20 States.
Pelto is widely recognized as a gifted pedagogue, and is devoted to providing guidance for young singers and aspiring conductors. He regularly works with leading conservatories and young artist programs including The Juilliard School, The Curtis Institute, Manhattan School of Music and Oberlin Conservatory and the Young Artist Programme at Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House. With San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, he conducted the 2014 Grand Finale as well as productions of Cosi fan tutte and The Rape of Lucretia, in which he “evoked superb vigor and stylish beauty of playing” according to the San Francisco Classical Voice. At Wolf Trap Opera, he inaugurated a new production of Le Nozze di Figaro and led Don Giovanni “shaped and paced with consummate skill,” said the Washington Post.
A masterful collaborator with dancers, Maestro Pelto has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the Atlanta Ballet. He recently conducted world premieres of Twyla Tharp’s first story ballet The Princess and the Goblin and Helen Pickett’s Camino Real. Previously, he conducted Jean-Christophe Maillot’s groundbreaking production of Romeo et Juliette, as well as the Atlanta Ballet’s production of Prokofiev’s Cinderella, for which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote “Under Ari Pelto’s baton, the orchestra has never sounded better, nor the chemistry between the pit and the stage been quite so palpable.”
After earning his Bachelor of Music in violin performance at Oberlin Conservatory, he studied conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Rubin Academy in Jerusalem, and with Imre Pallo at Indiana University.