Widely known for performances that have been called “poetic, earthy, vigorous” and “highly individual,” Finnish-American conductor Ari Pelto is in demand in opera houses and with symphony orchestras throughout the United States. Appointed Music Director at Opera Colorado in 2015, Pelto conducted acclaimed performances of La Traviata, Don Giovanni, Madama Butterfly, Aida, La Boheme, Falstaff, La Fanciulla del West, Le Nozze di Figaro and Lucia di Lammermoor. In contemporary repertoire, the company recently premiered Lori Laitman’s long-awaited work, The Scarlet Letter, a recording of which was released on the Naxos label, 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, to be recorded in 2022.
In recent seasons, Maestro Pelto conducted The Barber of Seville, I Pagliacci and Tosca for Opera Colorado. He traveled to San Diego Opera to conduct Hänsel und Gretel and returned to Atlanta Ballet for performances of The Nutcracker. Other highlights as a guest conductor include Eugene Onegin in a new production at Atlanta Opera and Lyric Opera Kansas City, Salome and Lucia Di Lammermoor at Virginia Opera, a new Nutcracker and Carmina Burana at Atlanta Ballet, and L’enfant et les Sortileges at Chicago College of Performing Arts.
After earning his Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance at Oberlin Conservatory, Ari Pelto studied conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Rubin Academy in Jerusalem, and with Imre Pallo at Indiana University. At the age of 24 he was appointed Assistant Conductor at the Spoleto Festival and from 2000-2002 he was Assistant Conductor of the Florida West Coast Symphony. In addition to conducting over 30 concerts in Sarasota, Pelto also was a frequent guest with the Florida Orchestra and the Toledo Symphony. 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 Pelto made his highly-praised debut with New York City Opera conducting La Traviata, returning for productions of Madama Butterfly, La Boheme, and Carmen; he led tours of the Western Opera Theatre (the touring company of San Francisco Opera) conducting La Boheme and Cosi fan tutti in over 20 States. For 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.
Past successes include Aida at Utah Symphony and Opera, a double bill of La Voix Humaine, starring Patricia Racette, Gianni Schicchi at Chicago Opera Theater, A Streetcar named Desire at Virginia Opera, The Rake’s Progress at Portland Opera, Rigoletto, Don Pasquale, Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Don Giovanni at Opera Memphis, 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 and Gretel at Utah Opera.
A masterful collaborator with dancers, Maestro Pelto has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the Atlanta Ballet. He led the company in 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.