Christian Thielemann has spent most of his career in the major opera houses of Germany, earning a reputation as one of the finest conductors of the operas of Wagner and Richard Strauss. He has been, especially in the new century, active in the concert hall, as well, particularly in repertory from the Germanic sphere, with a focus on works by Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Schumann (the complete symphonies), Brahms, and Bruckner. While he has built much of his reputation in Germany, he has hardly avoided the limelight elsewhere, leading performances at the Met, San Francisco Opera, Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden, and the major Italian opera houses. Like many other conductors, he has generated a measure of controversy, owing to clashes with management over artistic and funding issues. Thielemann has made numerous recordings for a variety of labels, including DG, Decca, EMI, Orfeo, EuroArts, and Opus Arte.
Christian Thielemann was born in Berlin, Germany, on April 1, 1959. He studied piano, harpsichord, and viola in his youth and later enrolled in the Karajan Academy. He played viola in the German Youth Orchestra and became an assistant to Karajan at 19. Thielemann debuted with the Berlin Philharmonic as a harpsichordist in 1980.
In 1985 Thielemann was appointed principal conductor of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf. Three years later he became general music director at the Nuremberg Opera. His U.S. debut came at the San Francisco Opera in 1991, conducting Strauss' Elektra.
Thielemann was appointed principal guest conductor of the Teatro Comunale of Bologna in 1993. In 1997 Thielemann accepted the post of general music director at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. He debuted at the 2000 Bayreuth Festival in Wagner's Die Meistersinger. Meanwhile, conflicts with management at the Deutsche Oper were brewing, and Thielemann departed in 2004, three years sooner than expected.
From 2004 he began serving as music director of the Munich Philharmonic, with a contract running through 2011. In 2008 Thielemann was named chief musical advisor at Bayreuth, becoming in all but name the festival director. With Thielemann's 2012 appointment as music director of the Saxon State Opera and its sibling ensemble, the Dresden State Orchestra, he has clearly emerged as one of the foremost German conductors of his generation. Among his later recordings are a pair of Opus Arte DVDs, from 2010, of Wagner's Die Walküre and Das Rheingold, both taken from live 2008 Bayreuth Festival performances.