The President of the Italian Republic has awarded May Festival music director laureate James Conlon with the Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Commendatore Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana).
The title of Commendatore is granted to acknowledge “merits achieved for the nation in the fields of literature, arts, economics, and in the fulfillment of public duties.” It is one of Italy’s highest honors.
“Being descended, in part, from Italian immigrants, this recognition of my work is particularly meaningful to me,” said the New York-born maestro.
Two other American-born conductors — both with Cincinnati ties — have been similarly honored: Leonard Bernstein (1989) and Thomas Schippers (1975). Bernstein was honorary music director of the Cincinnati May Festival; Thomas Schippers was music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Conlon, who is currently principal conductor of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra in Torino —the first American to hold this position—has performed regularly in Italy for over 30 years. He is recognized internationally for his work in both the concert hall and opera house, and has also served as music director of Los Angeles Opera since 2006.