Roberto Benzi was born of Italian parents on December 12, 1937 in Marseille (France), where his father taught solfege. His musical gifts, in particular his “perfect pitch”, were apparent from an extremely young age. At three years old he began to learn solfege – at four, the piano. Before the age of ten he began his first lessons in orchestral conducting with André Cluytens.
In 1948 came his own conducting debut, and with it, the definitive choice of a career. The cinema honoured the young talent, who starred in two musical films directed by Georges Lacombe : “Prelude to Glory” (1949), awarded by the Cannes Film Festival 1950 and “Call of Destiny” (1952), in which he costarred with Jean Marais. These films enjoyed an immense success throughout Europe, helping to assure Roberto Benzi's early fame. At the same time they served to inspire a good number of young people to embark upon musical careers.
After passing the French « baccalauréat » with distinction, Roberto Benzi attended the Sorbonne, and finished his musical studies with private courses in analysis and composition.
During a career that has now spanned more than 50 years, Benzi has conducted the most famous orchestras in the world : the Orchestre National de France and the Philharmonique Orchestra of Radio France ; the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris ; the London Symphony ; the London Philharmonic; the Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestra ; the English Chamber Orchestra ; the Scottish Chamber Orchestra ; the Stockholm and Oslo Philharmonics ; the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande ; the Zurich Tonhalle ; the Accademia Santa Cecilia di Roma ; the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam ; the Rotterdam Philharmonic ; the Dutch Radio Philharmonic ; the radio Orchestras of Hamburg and Hannover ; the Orquesta Nacional, Madrid ; the Radio Orchestra of Madrid ; the Wiener Symphoniker ; the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra ; the Bayerischer Rundfunk ; the Bayerischer Staatsorchester München ; the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne ; the Bamberger Symphoniker ; the Dresdner Philharmonic and the Staatskapelle ; the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra ; the Czech Philharmonic ; the Prague Symphony Orchestra ; the Slovak Philharmonic Bratislava ; the Leningrad Philharmonic ; the State Orchestra of the U.S.S.R ; the Moscow Philharmonic ; the Israel Philharmonic ; the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra ; the Tokyo Philharmonic ; the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra ; the Cleveland, the Philadelphia and the Minnesota (Minneapolis) Orchestras ; the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Montreal Symphony.
Roberto Benzi has also conducted in numerous festivals : in Vienna ; in Holland, Aix-en-Provence, Besançon, Montreux, Lausanne, Prague, Saint-Petersburg, Gulbenkian (Portugal), Robin Hood Dell and Ambler (Philadelphia), Blossom Music Center (Cleveland), Saratoga (New York) etc.
In 1954, in Marseille, Roberto Benzi conducted his first opera – Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”, which featured the great coloratura Mado Robin as Rosina. Since that time he has been engaged at a great number of opera houses : the Metropolitan Opera, New York ; the National Theatre of Prague ; the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie (National Theatre) Brussels ; the Grand Théâtre de Genève ; the Teatro Verdi, Trieste ; the Sofia National Theatre etc., to mention but a few. In 1959/60 he was engaged as musical director for the first “Carmen” ever to be performed at the Paris Opéra Garnier.
Since 1960 he has recorded numerous works for the Philips label ; also for E.M.I Classics, Forlane and Naxos. He was the founder and resident conductor of the Orchestre de Bordeaux-Aquitaine from 1972 to 1987 ; musical and artistic director of the Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra (Het Gelders Orkest) from 1989 to 1998 ; and artistic supervisor and conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands (NJO) from 1991 to 1995.
Roberto Benzi has taught conducting master classes since 1973 in France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. He has published various orchestrations by Editions Peters/Frankfurtrs, Salabert, Lemoine and Billaudot.
He holds the rank of Knight of the Légion d’honneur, the Ordre National du Mérite, the Palmes Académiques and the Dutch Royal Ordre of Nederlandse Leeuw.