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Rafael Payare


About this Artist

Rafael Payare’s profound musicianship, technical brilliance, and charismatic presence on the podium have elevated him as one of the most sought-after conductors. The 2022/23 season will mark his first season as Music Director of Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal (OSM) and his fourth season as Music Director of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, with whom his relationship has been recognized as one of the most dynamic in North America. 

Payare was previously Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Ulster Orchestra from 2014 to 2019, and he twice appeared with them at the BBC Proms, in 2016 and 2019. He now holds the title of Conductor Laureate in recognition of the vast artistic contribution he gave to the orchestra and City of Belfast during his five-year tenure. 

He has worked with many of the world’s leading ensembles, including the Vienna Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchester, London Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, and Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Since making his North American debut with the Chicago Symphony in 2015, he has worked with the major orchestras of Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Soloists with whom he has enjoyed collaborations include Daniil Trifonov, Frank Peter Zimmerman, Vilde Frang, Hilary Hahn, Gil Shaham, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Alisa Weilerstein, Piotr Anderszewski, Sergey Khachatryan, Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, and Dorothea Röschmann. 

Payare kicked off the 2022/23 season with the launch of a multiyear Mahler cycle with the OSM to open their season at the Maison Symphonique, as well as his first European tour with the orchestra, including the OSM’s debut at London’s Southbank Centre and their return to the Vienna Konzerthaus for two concerts and to Bozar in Brussels. This season, Payare will make his Carnegie Hall debut with the OSM, as well his debut with the New York Philharmonic. Other highlights include returns to the Cleveland Orchestra and the Los Angeles and Munich philharmonic orchestras, as well as the London and San Francisco symphony orchestras. 

As an opera conductor, Payare has conducted at the Glyndebourne Festival, Staatsoper Berlin, Royal Stockholm Opera, and Royal Danish Opera. The current season will see his debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conducting Il barbiere di Siviglia. In July 2012, he was personally invited by his mentor, the late Lorin Maazel, to conduct at his Castleton Festival in Virginia, and in July 2015, he was appointed Principal Conductor and led performances of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette and a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in memory of Maazel. 

An inspiration to young musicians, Payare has forged a close relationship with the Royal College of Music in London, where he visits every season to lead its symphony orchestra, and he has led projects with the Chicago Civic Orchestra, Orchestra of the Americas, and the Filarmónica Joven de Colombia. 

Born in 1980 and a graduate of the celebrated El Sistema in Venezuela, Payare began his formal conducting studies in 2004 with José Antonio Abreu. He has conducted all the major Venezuelan orchestras, including the Simón Bolívar Orchestra. Having also served as Principal Horn of the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, he took part in many prestigious tours and recordings with conductors including Giuseppe Sinopoli, Claudio Abbado, Simon Rattle, and Lorin Maazel. 

In May 2012, Payare was awarded first prize at the Malko International Conducting Competition.