The Italian conductor and composer, Giuseppe Sinopoli, studied at age 12 harmony and organ at Messina, then harmony and counterpoint at the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory in Venice under Ernesto Rubin de Cervin and at Darmstadt, including being mentored in composition with Karlheinz Stockhausen (1965-1967). At the insistence of his father he simultaneously studied medicine. From 1969 to 1973, he attended the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, studying under Franco Donatoni. He graduated with his doctorate of medicine in psychiatry and a PhD in criminal anthropology from the University of Padua in 1972. His psychiatry dissertation was on the physiology of the areas of the brain concerned with creating the sensations of sound.
Giuseppe Sinopoli began to make a name for himself as a composer of serial works. After a period as Donatoni's assistant, Sinopoli was appointed IN 1972 to the faculty of the Venice Conservatoire Benedetto Marcello as Professor for contemporary and electronic music, and became a major proponent of the new movement in Venice for contemporary music. In that year he also took up conducting studies at the Vienna Academy of Music under Hans Swarowsky, In 1975, hr founded the Bruno Maderna Ensemble, an avant-garde music group, while continuing to teach and compose.
Giuseppe Sinopoli began to make a reputation as a composer. His work, typically, was intense and followed the trend toward serial music that prevailed at the time. He received several major commissions. His largest and most famous composition was an opera named Lou Salomé, based on the life of a 19th century literary figure. It was premiered at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in 1981, with Karan Armstrong in the title role.
Meanwhile, Giuseppe Sinopoli's work leading the Bruno Maderna Ensemble had been noticed. He began receiving requests to conduct. In 1976 and 1977, respectively, he led highly acclaimed performances of the Verdi operas Aïda and Macbeth in Venice, then the same composer's Macbeth at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and Attila at the Vienna State Opera. His London operatic debut was Puccini's Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden (1983) and his New York debut was at the Metropolitan with Puccini's Tosca (1985). As an operatic conductor, he performed frequently at the Bayreuth Festival, La Scala, and other major opera houses. He is particularly known for his electrifying performances of the Richard Strauss operas Salome and Elektra.
In addition to Bayreuth, Giuseppe Sinopoli was also a frequent guest at the Salzburg, Lucerne, and Schlewsig-Holstein Music Festivals. From 1990 until his death, he was director of the Taormina Arte Festival in Sicily. He was appointed Principal Conductor of the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome (serving there through 1987) and in 1984 became the Principal Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, remaining through 1994. In 1987, his position was upgraded to that of Music Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra, which he held until 1994. He made a number of recordings with them, including music by Edward Elgar and the complete symphonies of Gustav Mahler. From 1992 to 2001, he was Principal Conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle. He conducted as a guest other renowned orchestras, including the Berliner Philharmoniker, SWR Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, Wiener Philharmoniker, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, among many others.
Giuseppe Sinopoli is best known for his intense and sometimes controversial interpretations of opera, especially works by Italian composers and Richard Strauss. Sinopoli specialized in late-19th century and early-29th century music, from Wagner and Verdi to Strauss, G. Mahler and the Second Viennese School. He was one of the world's great conducting stars. He gave powerful, psychologically penetrating, even expressionist, performances. His conducting was the object of much controversy, especially in the symphonic genre, with some berating the "eccentricity" of his interpretations, while others praised the insightfulness of his often intellectual approach to works.
Giuseppe Sinopoli recorded exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon. His set of Bruno Maderna's works won the Grand Prix International du Disque and Premio della Critica Discografia Italiana in 1981. His Manon Lescaut recording won both those prizes in addition to the International Record Critics Award in 1985. Further prizes were a Gramophone Award in 1987 for La forza del destino, the Tokyo Record Academy Prize and Stella d'Oro for Madama Butterfly, three prizes for Tannhäuser, and three for Tosca. Sinopoli's most honored recording was Strauss' Salome, which won the Orphee d'Or, the Stella d'Argento, the Grand Prix de la Nouvelle Academie du Disque, and the Edison Award. Sinopoli's last recordings included Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos and Friedenstag, as well as Dvořák's Stabat Mater. In 1994, the Italian government awarded Sinopoli its highest award, the Gran Croce al Merito, for his contribution to arts and music.
On April 29, 2001, Giuseppe Sinopoli died of a heart attack at the age of 54 while conducting the third act of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. The performance was dedicated to the memory of the company's late chief director, Götz Friedrich. Two nights later, Marcello Viotti stepped in to direct Aida, and dedicated his performance to Sinopoli's memory. The funeral in Rome on April 23, was attended by the Italian President and Prime Minister, as well as a large contingent from La Scala. He was survived by his wife Silvia and two sons. His books include Masterpieces of Greek Ceramics from the Sinopoli Collection. He died two days before receiving his Laurea in Archeology at Università La Sapienza in Rome.
Every October since 2005, Taormina Arte has dedicated a festival to Giuseppe Sinopoli, the artistic director of the Music section of the Taormina Festival from 1989 to 1997. The Giuseppe Sinopoli Festival celebrates the man not only as a musician and as a conductor but also as a composer, a doctor, an archaeologist and intellectual, with a variety of events from music and literature, theatre and art to conferences, exhibitions, publications and concerts. Every year the Festival welcomes important orchestras to Italy. On the occasion of the first edition of the Giuseppe Sinopoli Festival the Sinopoli Chamber Orchestra was formed, in collaboration with the Conservatorio “Arcangelo Corelli” of Messina. The Orchestra, made up of young talented musicians, both pupils and teachers of the Conservatorio, mostly performs works by Giuseppe Sinopoli.