Péter Halász is one of the most versatile Hungarian conductors and he is active in both operatic and symphonic fields. In recent years he has premiered numerous operas, which won great acclaim from Hungarian and international critics alike, with the conductors’ verve, and precise and analytical work coming in for especial praise. At the core of his repertoire are the works of the First Viennese School and the German Romantics, with particular emphasis on Mozart, Wagner, and Richard Strauss. At the same time, he frequently conducts the Italian repertoire as well as contemporary music and Baroque pieces on period instruments.
As music director of the Hungarian State Opera from 2013 to 2016, Péter was responsible for many successful premieres. The first of these was Verdi’s Falstaff, timed to coincide with the two hundredth anniversary of the composer’s birth. A milestone in Hungarian operatic life was when he premiered the first ever domestic performance of Richard Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten, which enjoyed a fantastic reception from critics and audiences alike and has been one of the Hungarian State Opera’s most prominent productions ever since. In collaboration with Academy Award-winning director Jiri Menzel, Péter presented Mozart’s Cosí fan tutte featuring the cream of young Hungarian singers in the principal roles. In the same season he also conducted Weber’s Der Freischütz. 2015 saw the inception of a brand-new production of Wagner’s Ring cycle with Das Rheingold, which was followed by Die Walküre in 2016, and Siegfried in 2017; featuring in the operas were such international stars as Linda Watson, Tomasz Konyeczny, and Egils Silins. When in 2016, Thomas Adès’ The Tempest received its first ever Eastern European performance, it was also the first occasion on which a stage work by the preeminent contemporary composer had been performed in Hungary.
It was at the invitation of Ádám Fischer that Péter made his debut at the Hungarian State Opera with Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia in 2010. Since then he has regularly led repertoire performances in Budapest, including Verdi’s Rigoletto (with Ambrogio Maestri in the title role), Nabucco, and La traviata; Puccini’s Turandot, Madama Butterfly, and La bohéme; Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Le nozze die Figaro; and Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. During his tenure as the State Opera’s music director, Péter also led numerous concert performances. Of these, particularly worthy of mention were Verdi’s Requiem (with Anja Kampe and Ildikó Komlósi among the soloists) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. In 2016 he was the conductor for Plácido Domingo’s gala concert, which was the great tenor’s first ever performance at the Hungarian State Opera.
Péter has also conducted gala concerts by such world-famous singers as Angela Gheorghiu, Vesselina Kassarova, Piotr Beczala, and Feruccio Furlanetto. In 2017 he was awarded the Golden Cross of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic.
Péter Halász was born in Budapest. After studying piano and composition in his native city, he went on to study conducting under Leopold Hager at Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Wien and the years he spent there still define his taste and musical aesthetic. He took master classes in Lucerne as a student of Bernard Haitink. He has been massively influenced by Ádám Fischer. Their work together began when Péter acted as assistant to the renowned conductor at the Haydn Festival Eisenstadt and their relationship has continued to the present day.
After completing his studies, Péter coached young singers as a member of the International Opera Studio at Opernhaus Zürich. Following this, he was engaged as a conductor by Staatstheater Mainz where he led fifteen different productions.
From 2011 Péter was the deputy music director of Theater Aachen and Sinfonieorchester Aachen. In his two seasons he conducted the premieres of Salvatore Sciarrino’s Superflumina, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, and Poulenc’s La voix humaine together with Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. With the premieres in Aachen of Ariodante and Alcina, Péter initiated a Händel cycle played on period instruments. He additionally conducted performances of Bizet’s Carmen, Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, and Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, while Tristan und Isolde was significant as the first time he had conducted a Wagner opera.
In 2015 Péter was invited to join Staatsoper Hamburg, where he made his debut with Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. He also worked as a guest conductor at many other German operas – Baadisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe (Wagner’s Das Rheingold), Staatstheater Kassel (Puccini’s La bohéme), Saarlaendisches Staatstheater (Puccini’s La bohéme), Musiktheater im Revier Gelsenkirchen (Saint Seans’ Samson et Dalila), and Staatstheater Braunschweig (Puccini’s Madama Butterfly).
Zoltán Kocsis personally invited Péter to conduct the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra with a programme including Holst’s The Planets. He led Staatsorchester Nürnberg for a concert of Liszt and Bartók with Tzimon Barto as soloist. He conducted Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with Lahav Shani as soloist. Péter has also led concerts by the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, the MAV Symphony Orchestra (Budapest), Staatsorchester Mainz, Sinfonieorchester Aachen, and Radio Sinfonieorchester Wien.
Péter’s plans for the 2018/19 season include a Hungarian State Opera tour with concert performances of Puccini’s Tosca. He will also appear at Deutsche Oper Berlin conducting a guest performance of Die Frau ohne Schatten by the Hungarian State Opera. April 2019 will see him teaching on the Peter Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation’s Master Course for Conductors at the invitation of Peter Eötvös himself.