James Conlon has been named Commendatore Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic) by the President of the Italian Republic. This is one of the highest honors granted directly by the President through the Order of Merit, established in 1951 and the highest Order of the Italian Republic. The title of Commendatore is granted to acknowledge “merits achieved for the nation in the fields of literature, arts, economics, and in the fulfillment of public duties.”
Two other American-born conductors have been similarly honored: Leonard Bernstein (1989) and Thomas Schippers (1975).
Mr. Conlon, Principal Conductor of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra in Torino since 2016—the first American to hold this position—has performed regularly in Italy for over thirty years. His most recent performances of Britten’s Billy Budd, a premiere in Rome, at the Teatro dell’Opera, have been received with critical acclaim in Italy’s most widely read publications, including Corriere della Sera, la Repubblica, and La Stampa. He is recognized internationally for his work in both the concert hall and opera house, serving as Music Director of Los Angeles Opera since 2006.
Mr. Conlon is honored to receive this prestigious title and said he is happy to see his commitment to musical life in Italy so appreciated. “My deep bond with Italy extends not only to its great culture, beauty, and musical tradition,” he said. “Being descended, in part, from Italian immigrants, this recognition of my work is particularly meaningful to me.”
This honor is one of many that Mr. Conlon has received over the course of his career. He was also awarded the Légion d’Honneur, the equivalent honor in France, by then-President Jacques Chirac in 2002. Additional Italian awards include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Los Angeles (2010) and the Premio Galileo 2000 Award for his significant contribution to music, art, and peace in Florence (2008).
Mr. Conlon is among the five initial recipients of the Opera News Awards (2005) and was honored by The New York Public Library as a “Library Lion” (2004). He holds honorary doctorates at The Juilliard and Colburn Schools as well as Brandeis and Chapman Universities. He has received the Crystal Globe Award from the Anti-Defamation League (2007), as well as the Roger E. Joseph Prize at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for his extraordinary efforts to eradicate racial and religious prejudice and discrimination (2013). He was awarded the Zemlinsky Prize for his efforts in bringing that composer’s music to international attention (1999). He has been awarded the Music Institute of Chicago’s Dushkin Award (2009) and the Medal of the American Liszt Society (2008). Mr. Conlon was named Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture (2004).