The 45-year-old Italian conductor made his company debut in November of 2005, in what The San Francisco Chronicle called "dynamic" performances of Verdi's La forza del destino. "It was love at first sight with San Francisco Opera and with the city of San Francisco," he said today.
"To become music director in San Francisco is one of my dreams in life," he told the Chronicle, "but I never thought it could call me because it was too far."
Gockley told the newspaper that Luisotti was "a really easy and clear choice for the post. He conducted Forza with such passion, he is the right age and at the right stage of his career, and our core repertoire continues to be Italian."
Luisotti succeeds Donald Runnicles, whose departure in the summer of 2009 was announced this past September, nine months after Gockley began his term as general director.
Born and raised in Tuscany (where he and his wife still live today), Luisotti began conducting his church choir at age 11, according to the Chronicle. He was trained as a pianist and singer and on trumpet as well; after finishing his studies, he held jobs at La Scala in Milan — first as a rehearsal pianist and later as a staff conductor, working with Lorin Maazel and Riccardo Muti.
In 1999 Luisotti was appointed music director of the Teatro Verdi in Salerno; since then he has conducted at virtually every major Italian opera house, and he maintains a close relationship with the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa.
The past few years have brought a series of successful debuts for Luisotti — among others, at La Scala, the Paris Opera and the Bavarian State Opera. In 2006 he led his first performances at the Metropolitan Opera (Tosca in October — "an opera house would be lucky to have him" said The New York Times) and Seattle Opera (Macbeth in May 2006, for which the company named him Artist of the Year). He has debuts scheduled this year at the Vienna State Opera and Madrid's Teatro Real; he makes his U.S. orchestral debut this March with the Dallas Symphony; northern California will get to hear him this summer when he conducts the Russian National Orchestra and Joshua Bell in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto at the Napa Valley's Festival del Sole.
And after today's press conference, Luisotti left San Francisco for London, where he begins rehearsing for his debut at Covent Garden on January 30, in Il trovatore.