Ari Pelto


"There is no way to overstate it: Pelto is a wizard in the pit..."

Daily Camera

"The Virginia Symphony Orchestra, whose members, under the insightful direction of Maestro Ari Pelto, added just the right slippery, jazzy underbelly to Mr. Previn’s music"

The Washington Times

"Mr. Pelto is a fine Mozartean."

Seen and Heard International

"Pelto’s unfailing ability to create a cohesive blend between singers and orchestra..."

Opera News

"Don Giovanni…shaped and paced with consummate skill by conductor Ari Pelto"

Washington Post

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.

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.

A masterful collaborator with dancers, Maestro Pelto has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the Atlanta Ballet. He recently conducted Jean-Christophe Maillot’s groundbreaking production of Romeo et Juliette with the company and in 2012, he partnered with Twyla Tharp, conducting the world premiere of her first story ballet The Princess and the Goblin. Previously, he conducted the Atlanta Ballet’s production of Prokofiev’s Cinderella, and 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.”

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

Opera Colorado, La fanciulla del West

November 2016

Several stories can be told about the artistic and organizational resurgence of Opera Colorado, but arguably no development was more consequential than the naming of Ari Pelto as music director. There is no way to overstate it: Pelto is a wizard in the pit... Throughout the opera's three acts, Pelto's focus was intense. Puccini's penchant for doubling rhythmically fluid vocal lines, often a nightmare for conductors, was handled with natural ease. Pelto's simultaneous communication with players and singers is a marvel to behold. That is not to say that he ever draws attention to himself—far from it, and that is part of his artistry.

Daily Camera, Kelly Dean Hansen, 7 November 2016

Ari Pelto led a first-rate pit orchestra who were steady and sympathetic in accompaniment.

Opera, Marc Shulgold, March 2017

Aida, Utah Opera & Symphony

March 2016

Playing an equally important role was the Utah Symphony, conducted by Ari Pelto. 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.

Catherine Reese Newton, Salt Lake Tribune, 13 March

The Scarlet Letter, Opera Colorado

May 2016

Conductor Ari Pelto honors Laitman's democratic approach to composing and reaches deep into every section to pull the most out of the orchestra. He knows when to put on the brakes and when to pump up the volume.

Denver Post, Ray Mark Rinaldi, 10 May

Conductor Ari Pelto led his forces with his usual sensitivity to the singers on the stage, and the sounds from the pit were a gorgeous background to the action.

Daily Camera, Kelly Dean Hansen, 12 May

…the orchestra, which was ably led by Ari Pelto.

Opera Now UK, Heidi Waleson, June 2016

Laitman's occasionally shimmering score, capably delivered by the well-rehearsed orchestra led by Opera Colorado music director Ari Pelto, brought a much-needed lightness to the proceedings.

Opera News, Marc Shulgold, 7 June 2016

Laitman’s score remained unblushingly tonal and occasionally tuneful, enhanced by a colourful orchestral accompaniment (nimbly led by Opera Colorado’s music director Ari Pelto).

Opera Magazine, Marc Shugold, October 2016

La Voix Humaine / Gianni Schicchi, Chicago Opera Theatre

February 2016

Conductor Ari Pelto deftly captured the disparate emotional worlds of the two pieces. The playing was excellent throughout, with some particularly fine work from the winds in the Poulenc.

Mark Thomas Ketterson, Opera News, 6 February 2016

Conductor Ari Pelto deftly restrains the orchestra, which never overpowers Patricia Racette’s exquisite soprano.

Barnaby Hughes, Stage & Cinema, 7 February 2016

Aida, Opera Colorado

November 2015

One of the most positive recent developments for Opera Colorado was this year's naming of Ari Pelto as its first music director. The conductor — who made such an indelible mark with his acclaimed interpretation of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" in 2013, then followed up with an incredibly nuanced reading of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" last year — is an obvious and natural fit for the company's aesthetic. In the pit for "Aida," Pelto showed a firm command of the orchestra, a distinct communication with the singers and a solid knowledge of Verdi's four-act 1871 score.

Daily Camera, Kelly Dean Hansen, 9 November 2015

The Rake’s Progress, Portland Opera

June 2015

Ari Pelto guided and cued the vocal/instrumental collaboration into a work of art. Everyone on stage was confident in note, pitch and rhythm. Maestro Pelto made it all came together.

Bruce Browne, Oregon Artswatch

Ari Pelto led the orchestra nimbly through a deceptively challenging score.

James McQuillen, The Oregonian

Salome, Virginia Opera

January 2015

The Virginia Opera Orchestra, provided by the Virginia Symphony, sounded wonderful in its confident realization of Strauss' chromatic, dissonant, instantaneously changing score. Under the calm baton of conductor Ari Pelto, dynamics were extreme; solos were superb. The wall of sound from the pit, with flying motives and emotions, was another palpable piece of this terrible tale.

B.J. Atkinson, Hampton Roads

Opera Memphis, Don Giovanni

October 2014

...Musicians of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra performed beautifully under the assured baton of Ari Pelto.

Jon W. Sparks, Commercial Appeal

Don Giovanni, Opera Colorado

April 2013

Conducted with unrelenting energy by Ari Pelto.

Ray Rinaldi, The Denver Post

A Streetcar Named Desire, Virginia Opera

March 2013

Making things even better, the singers were accompanied by members of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, whose members, under the insightful direction of Maestro Ari Pelto, added just the right slippery, jazzy underbelly to Mr. Previn’s music ... infusing it with the kind of decadent but pulsating life that we’re now convinced the composer had actually been thinking of all along.

Terry Ponick, The Washington Times

The orchestra was excellent. Previn’s score bangs around in a whole buffet of styles, and conductor Ari Pelto had his forces reveling as playfully in the bluesy drama of New Orleans funk as in the psychological tension-building of movie-score sophistication.

Joan Reinthaler, Washington Post

Hansel and Gretel, Utah Opera

January 2011

The orchestra plays an important role in this opera, and Pelto led the Utah Symphony in a nicely balanced performance full of beautiful musical colors. The woodwinds accompanying Gretel’s “Sandman” song were particularly magical.

Catherine Reece Newton, Salt Lake Tribune

Hansel and Gretel, Portland Opera

November 2010

Pelto led the orchestra in a nuanced performance of Humperdinck’s Wagner-lite score, which lays a trail of tasty melodic crumbs through a forest of dark chromaticism and dense orchestration. Like the rest of the opera, the music drew quirky sweetness from shadowy depths, countering fear and hunger with friendly and approachable tunes.

James McQuillan, The Oregonian

Cinderella, Atlanta Ballet

February 2010

Under Ari Pelto’s baton, the orchestra has never sounded better, nor the chemistry between pit and stage been quite so palpable.

Susan Elliot, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Carmen, Utah Opera

January 2010

Pelto made it clear from the first brisk bars of the famed overture this was going to be an exciting ride. The orchestra and singers rolled out tune after glorious tune, yet the action never felt rushed.

Salt Lake Tribune

Cosi Fan Tutte, San Francisco Opera Centre

July 2009

Much responsibility for the afternoon's success lay with conductor Ari Pelto. He was ever alive to the moment. His orchestra consistently highlighted the contrasting instrumental lines that convey how deeply Mozart understood what the characters feel but don‘t sing.

Jason Serinus, San Francisco Classical Voice

La Boheme, Boston Lyric Opera

November 2007

A company debut for the conductor Ari Pelto, who at Sunday afternoon’s performance kept the orchestra and singers sensitively on track.

Boston Globe

Carmen, New York City Opera

September 2006

..City Opera has a good (conductor) in Ari Pelto, a Yankee from Connecticut. The overture was reassuring: crisp, vigorous, un-perfunctory. After the final note, someone in the audience whooped, and the audience in general cheered. Quite right. Mr. Pelto knows “Carmen” musically, and that made all the difference.

Jay Nordlinger, The New York Sun

Ari Pelto’s Repertoire

Please click here: Ari Pelto's Repertoire

These photos are available to be downloaded.
Right click on a desired image and select the "Save Link As" option.