The Dutch conductor, Edo de Waart, came from a musical family, being the son of a choral singer. He began piano lessons as child and at 13 began to study the oboe. He pursued training at the Amstersdam Muzieklyceum (Sweelinck Conservatory) as an oboe (with Haakon Stotijn) and cello student (1957-1962, graduating in 1962. He also studied conducting with Dean Dixon in Salzburg (summer, 1960). He became co-principal oboe of the Amsterdam Philharmonic in 1961 and associate principal oboist of the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam in 1963. Meanwhile, he studied conducting, including a course with Franco Ferrara at Hilversum in 1964. This led to a debut with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in 1964. In 1964, at the age of 23, he he was a co-winner in the prestigious the Dimitri Mitropoulos Conductors' Competition in New York City, which resulted in a year-long appointment as an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (1965-1966).
On his return to the Netherlands, Edo de Waart was appointed in 1966 Assistant Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Bernard Haitink. He accompanied the orchestra on its 1967 tour of the USA. He first attracted notice when he was appointed in 1967 conductor of both the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, with which he toured and recorded. In 1967 he became Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra (co-music director with Jean Fournet). In 1969 he made his British debut as a guest conductor with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London Folkestone. In 1971 he toured the USA with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and also made his first appearance as an opera conductor in the USA in Santata Fe. He was Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra from 1973 to 1979. His association with the orchestra became noted for firm, exciting orchestral performances and intriguing choices of repertoire.
Edo de Waart made his debut at the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1974; in 1975 he became Principal Guest Conductor, and from 1977 to 1985 he was Music Director. Although the orchestra was often capable of fine performances, it was variable and had weaknesses. De Waart lifted its standards, turning it into a consistently fine orchestra. He conducted the orchestra in a gala concert at the opening of its new Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall in 1980. In 1985 he conducted an acclaimed series of the complete Wagner Ring operas in San Francisco. From 1986 to 1995, he was Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra in Minneapolis. In 1989, he returned to the Netherlands, where he was appointed Artistic Director of the Netherlands Dutch Radio and Television Organization, and Chief Conductor (Music Director) of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in Hilversum. He resigned from the post in 2004 and now he is the orchestra's conductor laureate.
Edo de Waart became Chief Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 1993. In August 1995 he led the orchestra on its first European tour in 20 years. In 1996 he took it on its first tours of Japan and Taiwan, and in 1998, on an American tour. In early 1999, after two successful terms with the orchestra, including taking it on a very well-received tour of the USA, he announced he would be leaving by the end of the year. The orchestra's management was fully engaged in the process of finding his replacement when de Waart changed his mind. He left the post in 2003. While in Sydney, de Waart made no secret of his dislike of the acoustics of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, the orchestra's home, saying, "if there is no clear intention to do something to improve the hall, then we really seriously have to look at another venue".
In 2004, Edo de Waart became Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. In November 2007, de Waart and the Hong Kong Philharmonic agreed on a contract extension of his tenure to 2012. On January 3, 2008, de Waart was named the 6th Music Director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and he assumed the post in September 2009. In March 2008, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra announced that de Waart was scheduled to become an Artistic Partner with the orchestra in the 2010-2011 season. On March 10, 2010, Edo de Waart announced he would step down from the post of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of Hong Kong Philharmonic after the 2011-2012 season. A few weeks after that, on April 2, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announced that de Waart had received a contract extension with that organization through the 2016-2017 season. Also in April 2010, the Royal Flemish Philharmonic (deFilharmonie) announced de Waart had signed a contract to become its Chief Conductor for six seasons beginning in 2012.
Edo de Waart has been a guest conductor with major orchestras throughout the world, including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra as well as the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra where, as with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Hong Kong Philharmonic, he has previously held a post. At the end of the 2013-2014 season he returns to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
As an opera conductor, Edo de Waart has enjoyed success in a large and varied repertoire in many of the world’s greatest opera houses. He made his first conducting appearance at the Santa Fe Opera (SFO) in 1971, in a production of Der fliegende Holländer. He debuted at the Houston Grand Opera in 1975, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1976 (with Ariadne auf Naxos), and the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in 1979. From 1970, he conducted the Netherlands Opera (DNO) frequently. Over the years he has made many appearances as an opera conductor, including the Santa Fe Opera, Paris' Bastille Opera, Grand Théâtre de Genève, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In 1980, he directed Der Ring des Nibelungen at the San Francisco Opera. In 1996 he debuted at the Salzburg Festival with Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. At the beginning of the 1999-2000 season he began his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Opera; in March 2002, he announced his departure in 2004 from this position. In giving his reason for leaving, de Waart mentioned his desire to spend time with his two small children. However, de Waart also mentioned in an interview with the newspaper Trouw his disagreement with the conceptual staging of Lohengrin by DNO director Pierre Audi and the planned Madame Butterfly of Robert Wilson. De Waart said he missed "humanity" and "emotion in the direction." In July 2007, the Santa Fe Opera named de Waart their chief conductor, effective October 1, 2007. His initial contract was for 4 years. However, in November 2008, SFO announced that de Waart would vacate the position before the end of his contract, no earlier than the end of the 2009 season. de Waart cited health and family reasons for this decision.
Edo de Waart established a notable conducting career in the last third of the 20th century, becoming known for clear, exciting performances in a wide range of repertoire. His objective approach to to interpretation, combined with his regard for stylistic propriety and avoidance of ostentatious conductorial display, makes his performance of the traditional and contemporary repertoire particularlu appealing. An avid promoter of contemporary music, de Waart led premieres of works by John Adams, whose opera Nixon in China he conducted the first recording. (it won a Grammy Award in 1988); Steve Reich, whose Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards he has recorded; and others in San Francisco. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Symphony No. 2 is dedicated to him. He has also conducted the works of Torke, Wuorinen, and Benjamin Britten.
In recent seasons, Edo de Waart has conducted a new production of Der Rosenkavalier for Opéra Bastille, Die Zauberflöte and Le nozze di Figaro for the Metropolitan Opera and Katya Kabanová, Werther, Peter Grimes, The Makropulos Affair, Madama Butterfly, Fidelio, Les Troyens in Amsterdam. Other recent productions include Boris Godunov for the Grand Théâtre de Genève, Le nozze di Figaro for the Salzburg Festival and Beatrice et Benedict for Santa Fe Opera. In Sydney, he led concert performances of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, a project which started in 1995 and culminated in performances of Götterdämmerung as part of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Arts Festival. He also conducted opera-in-concert performances of Richard Strauss' Salome and Elektra with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, to critical acclaim. His most recent appearance at The Met received rave reviews for Der Rosenkavalier, and he will return to the house in future seasons. In addition to semi-staged and concert opera performances with his orchestras in the USA, he regularly conducts opera with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw’s Zaterdag Matinee series, most recently Richard Strauss' Salome.
Edo de Waart made an impressive recorded debut with the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, including classic recordings of Mozart wind music. His extensive catalogue encompasses releases for Philips, Virgin, EMI, Telarc and RCA. His recording catalogue is extensive, encompassing recordings with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. His most recent recording is with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic; Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.1 was released in April 2013. Future releases include Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde: Nachtgesang und Isoldes Liebestod (arr. Henk de Vlieger) with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Edward Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic.
Edo de Waart has received a number of awards for his musical achievements. He was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal in 2001, "for service to Australian society and the advancement of music". In May 2005, he was appointed an Honorary Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia, "for service to Australia, particularly as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra". Moreover, he is a knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion. He was also appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in recognition of his contribution to music internationally, and in particular, his commitment to developing future generations of musicians in Hong Kong.
Edo de Waart maintains two residences, an apartment in Hong Kong and a house in Middleton, Wisconsin, the hometown of his (sixth) wife, Rebecca Dopp, whom he married in 1999. He and Dopp have two children: a son, Sebastiaan, and a daughter, Olivia. The family left Hong Kong to accommodate their son's asthma.