Gintaras Rinkevičius (b. 1960) is one of the most prominent internationally recognized Lithuanian artists. In 1985, his career received an immense impetus after his victory at the prestigious Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition. In 1988, Rinkevičius founded the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra and has been its artistic director for over a quarter of a century. At the same time he has been engaged in work abroad: from 1996 to 2003 he was the artistic director and chief conductor of the Latvian National Opera, and from 2007 to 2009 he was the main guest conductor at the same theatre. From 2002 to 2005, Rinkevičius was the chief conductor at the Malmo Opera (Sweden). Since 2008, Gintaras Rinkevičius has worked as chief conductor and artistic director of the Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra, as well as a professor at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. In 2013, he became conductor and member of the board of the World Peace Orchestra.
Yet his creative biography is inseparable from the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra which he established. Its activities began during the years of the national revival and have been developing in parallel with the history of Lithuania’s re-established independence. Rinkevičius and his orchestra became one of the symbols of the young country and of the renewal of its agitated society. From the point of view of repertoire, the orchestra’s programmes were like an explosion in the musical life of the capital. The ambitious conductor introduced the Lithuanian public to then unheard of monumental works such as Wagner’s Parsifal, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, Honegger’s Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher (Joan of Arc at the Stake), Walton‘s Belshazzar's Feast and others. Rinkevičius was the one who began the tradition of reception of Gustav Mahler's oeuvre in Lithuania. Over the years, the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra has performed all the symphonies of Mahler for numerous times, and recorded a set of CDs of Mahler’s complete symphonies. This was the music that nurtured Rinkevičius’ interpretative talent and brought his orchestra to maturity. The conductor expands this into other countries as a guest conductor.
Another of Gintaras Rinkevičius’ passions is opera. In 1995, he conducted the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra in Oskaras Koršunovas’ production of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman on the stage of the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre. Later, opera productions were undertaken by Rinkevičius’ likeminded theatre director Dalia Ibelhauptaitė. She rallied young singers into the informal movement of the ‘Bohemians’ that evolved into the official Vilnius City Opera, and directed such operas as Pagliaccio, La Boheme, The Magic Flute, Werther, Sweeney Todd, Eugene Onegin, Katya Kabanova, Cossi fan Tutti, Jonas ir Greta (Hansel and Gretel), Il Trovatore, Pelléas et Mélisande, Tosca, and Faust.
Concert performances of operas by the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra always become extraordinary events in the country’s musical life. Thanks to Rinkevičius, the audience of Vilnius had the pleasure of listening to concert performances of Wagner’s Parsifal, Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and Julius Juzeliūnas’ Žaidimas (A Game), and others.
However, Rinkevičius’s first encounter with opera took place before he established the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra. As an opera conductor, he debuted at the Hungarian National Theatre in 1987 in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio). In 1988, the Klaipėda State Musical Theatre was inaugurated with Rinkevičius’s production of Audronė Žigaitytė’s opera Mažvydas. In 1993, he conducted a premiere of a ballet to Mozart’s Requiem with the troupe of the Amsterdam Musical Theatre; in 1998, he debuted at the Gothenburg opera with Bizet’s Carmen, and in 2006 he was the music director of the production of Carmen at the Scottish Opera. Gintaras Rinkevičius conducts operas at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, and since 2003 he has been invited to conduct opera productions at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. He has worked on a number of operas at the Latvian National Opera (Nabucco, Aida, La Traviata, Salome, Eugene Onegin, The Queen of Spades, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, The Magic Flute, among others) and at the Malmo Opera.
Gintaras Rinkevičius has conducted the Berliner Symphoniker and the Staatskapelle Weimar, the symphony orchestras of Frankfurt (Oder), Tampere and Tivoli in Copenhagen, the St Petersburg Philharmonic, the Russian National Symphony Orchestra and the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, the Odense Symphony Orchestra and others. His conducting has been admired at world-renowned concert halls such as the Kölner Philharmonie, Festspielhaus in Salzburg, the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Champs Elysees in Paris, Paleo della Musica in Barcelona, the concert halls in Saragosa and Tampere, the Grand Hall of Moscow State Conservatory, Moscow Philharmonic, and others. Rinkevičius has given concerts in Europe, Taiwan, and Hong Kong; he has conducted at numerous international festivals among which mention should be made of the Nyon Festival in Switzerland, the Costa do Estoril Festival in Portugal, the Warsaw Autumn in Poland, the Europamusicale in Munich, the Chichester Festival in Great Britain and others. Rinkevičius has performed with such outstanding artists as Violeta Urmana, Sergei Larin, Matti Salminen, Badri Maisuradze, Katia Ricciarelli, Viktor Tretyakov, Yuri Bashmet, Peter Donohoe, Oleg Kagan, Gidon Kremer, David Geringas, and Roger Muraro, among many others. He has worked with opera and theatre directors Francesca Zambello, Mara Kimele, Oskaras Koršunovas, Dalia Ibelhauptaitė, Jonas Vaitkus, and others.
Gintaras Rinkevičius is a graduate of St Petersburg and Moscow State Tchaikovsky conservatories and winner of three international conducting competitions.
The conductor has been honoured many times for his creative work. He has been awarded orders of Lithuania, Latvia, Portugal, Russia, and the Kingdom of Norway. In Latvia, he was voted the Conductor of the Year in 1999 and honoured with the Great Music Award in 1997 and 2000. In Lithuania, his merit brought him the National Prize in Culture and Art in 1994. In 2010, he received the award of the Luminary of the Year, and in 2014 he received the badge of honour 'Carry Your Light and Believe' of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.