Roberto Benzi was born in Marseilles and is of Italian parents. Being musicians themselves, his parents realized early on that their son possessed exceptional musical talents. It was in Paris, however, that the young Roberto began to study with distinguished teachers and was able to consolidate and develop his musical gifts. From 1947 on he studied conducting with Andre Cluytens. These lessons were to influence his entire future. His own debuts as a conductor in 1948 marked the beginning of a career which in over fifty years has never ceased to flourish.
The young conductor's precocious fame led him to star in two feature films: "Prelude to Glory" in 1949 and "Call to Destiny" in 1952. These films won widespread acclaim; even before beginning his university studies, Roberto Benzi was a celebrity.
In 1954 Benzi conducted his first opera, Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia
. At the age of 21 (1959-60 season) he was engaged by the Paris Grand Opera Gamier to conduct R. Rouleau's magnificent new production of Carmen
. This was an important event, since Carmen had previously been performed only at the Opera Comique. The first opera ever to be filmed live by French television, the production went on to tour Japan in 1961. Since then Roberto Benzi has conducted around the world. Among the most important orchestras he has led are: the Orchestre National de France and Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique; the Orchestre de Paris; the Parisien Colonne and amoureux orchestras; the London Symphony; the London Philharmonic; the Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestra; the Stockholm Philharmonic; the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande; the Zurich Tonhalle; the Academia Santa Cecilia di Roma; the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam; the Wiener Symphoniker; the Gurznich Orchestra of Cologne; the N.D.R. of Hamburg; the Dresdner Staatskapelle; the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra; the Czech Philharmonic; the Leningrad Philharmonic; the State Orchestra of the U.S.S.R; the Moscow Philharmonic; the Israel Philharmonic; the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras; the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Montreal Symphony.
The list of opera houses is equally impressive: the Paris Grand Opera Carnier and Paris Opera Comique; the Metropolitan Opera, New York; the National Theatre of Prague; The Theatre Royal de la Monnaie (National Theatre) Brussels; the (Grand Théâtre de Geneve; the Teatro Verdi, Trieste; the Sophia National Theatre etc. Roberto Benzi has also conducted at numerous festivals: in Holland, Aix-en-Provonce, Besancon, Montreux, Lausanne, Prague, Gulbenkian (Portugal), Robin Hood Dell (Philadelphia), Blossom Music Center (Cleveland), Saratoga (New York) etc. His vast repertoire reflects the eclecticism of his musical tastes.
His recordings of Philips, since 1960, include symphonic works, ballets and operas. Benzi has also orchestrated several works of Brahms, Rossini and Erik Satie, published respectively by: Peters, Editions Francaises de Musique (Billaudot), Editions Lemoine and Editions Salabert. He has taught classes in orchestral conducting on numerous occasions, mainly in France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Founder and Director of the Orchestre de Bordeaux-Aquitaine from 1973 to 1987, Roberto Benzi gave it international status. Under his direction the ensemble was enlarged to 100 musicians and toured in several foreign countries. Among the orchestra's many recordings for EMI/Pathe-Marconi, Calliope and Forlane, the CD devoted to Albert Roussel (Forlane) received the 1985 prize awarded by the French Ministry of Culture and the Academy of French Recording. In recent years, Roberto Benzi has occupied concurrent posts in Holland - that of musical director of the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands, and musical director of the Arnhem Philharmonic. He holds the rank of Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour, and was recently decorated as Knight of the Royal Order of Orange-Nassau by her Majesty, Queen of the Netherlands.