"There is no way to overstate it: Pelto is a wizard in the pit..."
"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..."
"Don Giovanni…shaped and paced with consummate skill by conductor Ari Pelto"
Music Director at Opera Colorado, conductor Ari Pelto 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. Appointed in 2015, Pelto has conducted acclaimed performances of Don Giovanni, Madama Butterfly, Aida, La Boheme, Falstaff, La Fanciulla del West 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.
Recent highlights as a guest conductor include Eugene Onegin at 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.
Past successes include Aida at Utah Symphony and Opera, a double bill of La Voix Humaine, starring Patricia Racette, and Gianni Schicchi at Chicago Opera Theater. He conducted a variety of symphonic programs with orchestras in the US, including Omaha Symphony and the NYU Symphony.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
Falstaff, Opera Colorado
With spot-on pacing from Ari Pelto, the cast brilliantly tossed off the complexities of both the dizzying Act 1 finale and the glorious concluding fugue. Pelto wielded a sure hand over his fine orchestra throughout the performance, never allowing Verdi's powerful orchestral moments to overwhelm the singers. This tempos meshed perfectly with Edwards's ability to keep things moving without seeming rushed.
Opera News, Marc Shulgold, May 2018
Lucia di Lammermoor, Virginia Opera
Maestro Ari Pelto and the fifty-three piece Richmond Symphony gave us a good rendition of Donizetti with full support of the singers and drama.
Opera Gene, 11 April 2018
Under the baton of Ari Pelto, the Virginia Opera Orchestra (aka, the Richmond Symphony) sounded great throughout.
CDN, Terry Ponick, 17 April 2018
Steal a Pencil for Me, Opera Colorado
Company music director Ari Pelto, who had long championed the work and presided at the 2013 workshop performance in Scarsdale, led the fourteen-piece ensemble in the pit. With seemingly no effort, he guided a solid, sympathetic accompaniment through the score's many mood shifts and changes in meter.
Marc Shulgold, Opera News, 25 January 2018
Cohen praised Pelto's deep commitment to knowing the score and his ability to help singers bring out the drama in the music, along with his deep involvement in the process. "He is an ideal opera conductor," Cohen said.
Kelly Dean Hansen, Daily Camera, 22 January 2018
La bohème, Opera Colorado
Music director Ari Pelto highlights Puccini's mastery of orchestration...Despite the considerable dramatic intensity, effective comedy and beautiful singing happening onstage during the production, it is music director Ari Pelto's breathtaking wizardry in the pit that most distinguishes this staging of "Bohème.”
Pelto's incredible gift for interpreting operatic scores and for getting the most out of his orchestra was one of the reasons Opera Colorado named him to the post in 2015. On Saturday, his focus never wavered. Not only did he place Puccini's orchestral mastery on full display, he also demonstrated incredible focus, always making his intentions clear to the singers. And each of the opera's four acts came across as the contrasting staged tone poems that they are.
Act II is suitably vivid, and Pelto's support in the pit makes it even more so.
Daily Camera Entertainment, Kelly Dean Hansen, 5 November 2017
In the pit, the company music director Ari Pelto brought out all of the richness of Puccini's orchestral accompaniment, never permitting his fine ensemble to overpower the singers.
Opera Magazine, Marc Shulgold, April 2018
Eugene Onegin, Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Under the baton of Ari Pelto, the Kansas City Symphony proved both bold and sensitive, as necessary, the individual voices of the orchestra threading with the singers in a rich cloth, all savoring Tchaikovsky’s melodies.
The Kansas City Star, Libby Hanssen, 1 October 2017
The orchestra ably takes us through Tchaikovsky’s score under the baton of Ari Pelto, here making his Lyric debut.
Medium, Kelly Luck, 1 October 2017
Members of the Kansas City Symphony perform admirably in this production, conducted by Ari Pelto in his Lyric Opera debut. The overall sound from the orchestra is well balanced within itself and with those on stage…
KC Metropolis, Anthony Rodgers, 1 October 2017
The musical delivery got off to a good start in Act I, with Ari Pelto conducting a reduced...Kansas City Symphony in the pit: The peasant-chorus sounded splendid, and the vocal quartet of the four principal women...was carefully balanced and well-shaped.
Kansas City Independent, Paul Horsley, 2 October 2017
La fanciulla del West, Opera Colorado
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
...Musicians of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra performed beautifully under the assured baton of Ari Pelto.
Jon W. Sparks, Commercial Appeal
Don Giovanni, Opera Colorado
Conducted with unrelenting energy by Ari Pelto.
Ray Rinaldi, The Denver Post
A Streetcar Named Desire, Virginia Opera
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
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
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
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
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
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
A company debut for the conductor Ari Pelto, who at Sunday afternoon’s performance kept the orchestra and singers sensitively on track.
Carmen, New York City Opera
..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
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