Bertrand de Billy, while conducting and recording a sizable amount of instrumental music over the years, is generally associated with opera. In the new millennium he has devoted much time to the works of Wagner, appearing on a half-dozen or so DVDs of Wagner's operas, including a complete Ring. Massenet, Gounod, and other French composers have figured significantly in his operatic repertory, as well. In the instrumental realm, his tastes are varied and take in Mozart sacred works, Beethoven and Mahler symphonies, Debussy, Ravel, and Gershwin, and contemporary composers such as Rihm, Berio, Gruber, and Henze. He has led performances at many of the leading opera houses in Europe and the U.S., and has also conducted an array of orchestras in France, Germany, and Austria. De Billy has made numerous recordings, most for major labels like EuroArts, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, Teldec, and Orfeo.
De Billy was born in Paris in 1965. As a child he studied violin and viola and also regularly sang in a boys choir. He received his musical education in Paris, played in orchestras there, and then eventually conducted several Paris-based ensembles.
In 1986 he was appointed conductor of the Orchestre Symphonique des Jeunesse en Ile de France. He served four seasons in this post, during the last of which he worked with conductor/pianist Philippe Entremont. He served for a short time thereafter as an assistant to Pierre Dervaux at the Orchestre Colonne in Paris.
De Billy's debut in the operatic realm came at the 1991 Orviedo Festival in Spain, where he led an acclaimed performance of La Traviata. He returned to Spain the following year to enthusiastic response when he conducted Bizet's The Pearl Fishers at the Barcelona Festival.
De Billy's watershed breakthrough in opera came in 1993: that year he was appointed principal conductor and general music director at the Anhaltisches Theater in Dessau, a post he held until 1995. At the Vienna Volksoper, de Billy led a highly acclaimed Carmen in 1994 and went on to serve as music director there from 1996-1998.
From 1999-2004 de Billy was chief conductor at the Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona, where he led a celebrated Ring cycle. From 2002 until 2009 he served as principal conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. De Billy's 2007 performance of Massenet's Manon at the Teatro del Liceu with Anna Netrebko was a great success. His extensive discography includes recordings of Mozart's Da Ponte operas, Fidelio, Faust, Don Carlos, La bohème, Dialogues des Carmélites, and Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, as well as orchestral works by Schubert, Dvorák, Mahler, Gershwin, and Berio.