Primarily an opera conductor, Antonio Pappano enjoyed an astonishingly fast rise to the top of his profession in the 1990s.
He was born in London of Italian parents, but his main musical education was in the United States, where he studied piano with Norma Verilli, composition with Arnold Franchetti, and conducting with Gustav Meier. He was a rehearsal accompanist at the New York City Opera when he was just 21 years old. His work with the Lyric Opera of Chicago led to his becoming an assistant to Daniel Barenboim in preparation for Barenboim's Bayreuth productions of Tristan, Parsifal, and a complete Ring cycle. Pappano's own operatic conducting debut was at the Norwegian Opera in 1987, which led quickly to an appointment as music director there and, soon after, performances with the English National Opera, the San Francisco Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Berlin Staatsoper, and Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris. In 1992 he was appointed music director of Théâtre Royale de la Monnaie, where he was responsible for both opera and concert performances for 10 years. He made a spectacular debut at the Vienna Staatsoper in 1993, replacing Christoph von Dohnànyi at the last minute to lead a new production of Wagner's Siegfried.
Pappano records for the EMI Classics label. His album of Puccini's La Rondine won two Grammophone Awards (Best Opera Recording and Record of the Year), as well as the French Choc du Monde de la Musique, two Diapason d'Or awards, the USA Critics' Award, and the German Deutsche Schallplattenkritik award. His recording with the Accademia di Santa Cecilia of Verdi's Requiem won a Classical BRIT Award. Other recordings of operas include Philippe Boesman's Wintermärchen, Tristan und Isolde (with Placido Domingo), Don Carlo (the French version), Tosca, La bohème, Guillaume Tell (the French version), and the 2011 world premiere production of Mark-Anthony Turnage's Anna Nicole.
Tristan und Isolde, Act III, Dritte Szene: Mild und leise wie er lächelt (Isolde)