The 2019-20 season will mark Rafael Payare’s inaugural season as Music Director of San Diego Symphony. His profound musicianship, technical brilliance and charismatic presence on the podium has elevated him as one of the most sought-after conductors. He was Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Ulster Orchestra from 2014 – 2019, with whom he appeared twice at the BBC Proms in 2016 and 2019. The Orchestra recently named him Conductor Laureate in recognition of his vast artistic contribution to the Orchestra and City of Belfast during his five year tenure.
During the 14-15 season he made his acclaimed debut with the Vienna Philharmonic conducting concerts at the Vienna Musikverein and Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris and returned in June 2018 to conduct them at the Vienna Konzerthaus and a Baltic tour with mezzo soprano, Elina Garanca. Other highlights have included engagements with the London Symphony Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Staatskapelle Dresden and Deutsche Symphonie Orchester Berlin.
The current season will see return visits to the Munich Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, NHK Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester. He also makes his debuts with Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchester and Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 2017 he was named Honorary Conductor of Sinfonietta Cracovia and will conduct part of their 25th anniversary concerts in September 2019. Soloists with whom he has enjoyed collaborations include Daniil Trifonov, Frank Peter Zimmerman, Gil Shaham, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Nikolai Lugansky, Christiane Karg, Alisa Weilerstein, Nikolaj Znaider, Piotr Anderszewski, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Sergey Khachatryan, Emmanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman and Dorothea Röschmann.
As an opera conductor, he made his acclaimed debut at Glyndebourne Festival in 2019 conducting Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia and has conducted Madame Butterfly and La Boheme for Royal Swedish Opera and a new production of La Traviata at Malmo Opera. In July 2012, he was personally invited by his mentor, the late Lorin Maazel, to conduct at his Castleton Festival in Virginia and in July 2015 he was appointed Principal Conductor and conducted performances of Gounod’s 'Romeo and Juliette’ and a performance of Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in memory of Lorin Maazel.
Born in 1980 and a graduate of the celebrated El Sistema in Venezuela, Payare began his formal conducting studies in 2004 with José Antonio Abreu. He has conducted all the major orchestras in Venezuela, including the Simón Bolívar Orchestra. Having also served as Principal Horn of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, he took part in many prestigious tours and recordings with conductors including Giuseppe Sinopoli, Claudio Abbado, Sir Simon Rattle and Lorin Maazel.
In May 2012, Payare was awarded first prize at the Malko International Conducting Competition.