Christian Thielemann became one of the fastest-emerging young conductors during the 1990s. He is known for dramatic opera performances in the Romantic manner and for fresh repertory.
He studied at the Berlin Hochshule für Musik with Professor Helmut Roloff, as well as taking private lessons in composition and conducting. He is a violist, and was a member of the Karajan Foundation¹s Orchestra Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Thielemann says it was his exposure to Wagner in his formative years that made him want to be a conductor.
Thielemann became an assistant to von Karajan at the age of twenty. His first project in that capacity was Wagner¹s opera Parsifal, which he had already coached as a répétiteur at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin. He also appeared as a piano soloist with Karajan in Berlin, Munich, and Zürich.
In 1985 Thielemann became principal conductor at the Deutsche Oper Am Rhein in Düsseldorf. From 1988 to 1992 he served as Music Director of the Nuremberg Opera, a position which allowed him to conduct its orchestra in symphony concerts as well as conducting opera productions.
He was appointed principal guest conductor of the Theatro Comunale in Bologna in 1993. His first opera there was Leos Janacek¹s The Makropulos Case. In the same year, he played the first season concert of the La Scala Philharmonic, and appeared with the Israel Philharmonic for the first time.
In 1993 he made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera. This appearance was made difficult due to disagreements with one of the star soprano Kathleen Battle. Management backed Thielemann, precipitating Ms. Battle¹s leaving the Met. One of the aspects of his performances that gives singers and players difficulties is his fondness for the German conducting style of the pre-War era, with Romantic interpretations and elastic tempos
He has conducted opera in Japan, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Geneva Opera, and the Hamburg Staatsoper. While still with the Bologna house, he made his debut with the Deutsche Opera Berlin in Richard Strauss¹s Elektra. He has guest conducted the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Montreal Symphony, the Philharmonia of London, and the Berlin Philharmonic.
He became the General Music Director of the Deutsche Opera Berlin in the 1997/1998 season; one of his early accomplishments in that post was a revival of the lengthy opera Palestrina by Hans Pfitzner. He records for Deutsche Grammophon.