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

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Music Director at Opera Colorado, in Season 2019-20, Ari Pelto conducts The Barber of Seville, I Pagliacci and Tosca for the company. He travels to San Diego Opera to conduct Hänsel und Gretel and joins Atlanta Ballet for performances of The Nutcracker.

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 to Opera Colorado in 2015, Pelto has 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.

Recent 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.

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.

Other engagements include A Streetcar named Desire at Virginia Opera, The Rake’s Progress at Portland Opera, and 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.

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

Eugene Onegin, Atlanta Opera

March 2019

Conductor Ari Pelto had the orchestra at full intensity for this (The Letter) scene, beautifully balanced, tender and strong.

Pierre Ruhe, Arts Atlanta, 4 March 2019 ​

La Traviata, Opera Colorado

November 2018

As we've come to expect, company music director Ari Pelto offered impeccably supportive accompaniment, leading an excellent pit orchestra that never overwhelmed the singers.

Opera News, Marc Shulgold, February 2019

Falstaff, Opera Colorado

May 2018

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

March 2018

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

January 2018

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

November 2017

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

October 2017

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

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

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Ari Pelto Repertoire List 2016

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