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John Wilton Nelson Edit Profile

symphonic conductor

John Wilton Nelson, Costa Rican symphonic conductor. Recipient Irving Berlin Conducting award, 1967, Diapason d'Or award recording Beatrice & Benedict, 1993, Best Operatic Recording Grammy award for Handel's Semele with English Chamber Orchestra/Kathleen Battle, 1993.


Nelson, John Wilton was born on December 6, 1941 in San Jose, Costa Rica. Came to the United States, 1953. Son of Wilton Mons and Thelma (Agnew) Nelson.


B. Music, Wheaton College, 1963. M.M. (Teaching fellow), Juilliard School, 1965. Postgraduate diploma (teaching fellow), Juilliard School, 1967.


Nelson was Music Director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1976 to 1987. Nelson made two commercial recordings with the Indianapolis Symphony, of music by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Charles Martin Loeffler, for the New World Records label. With Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, he was Music Director from 1985 to 1988, and Principal Conductor from 1988 to 1991.

He was also music director of the Caramoor Festival in Katonah, New York from 1983 to 1990. In September 1998, Nelson became Music Director of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris. In March 2007, it was announced that he would leave this position with the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris at the end of the 2007-2008 season.

He is particularly noted as a great interpreter of large Romantic works, for his performances of opera, in particular the operas of Berlioz, as well as of Baroque music. Nelson regularly conducts in virtually all the major cities throughout the world. In America he has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Dallas and Cleveland.

In Latin America he has appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra (Costa Rica) and the National Symphony Choir. In Europe, with all the London orchestras, Dresden Staatskapelle, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Orchestre de Paris, the orchestras of Cologne, Stuttgart, Rotterdam, Oslo, and Stockholm. John Nelson is also known for his interest in choral music and is the Artistic Director of Soli Deo Gloria, an organization that has the goal of encouraging classical sacred music by funding commissions, encouraging performances of masterworks and making possible the performance of classical sacred music in locales where such music is not well known.


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  • Other Work

    • Music director, ProArte Chorale, Ridgewood, New Jersey, 1965-1975. Conductor, New York Mozart Festival, 1967, Juilliard Opera Theatre, New York City, 1968. Music director, Greenwich Philharmonica Orchestra, New York City, 1966-1974.

      Conductor, New York City Opera, 1973-1975, Santa Fe Opera, 1973, Geneva Grand Theatre, 1974, Metropolitan Opera, New York City, since 1974, Lyon Opera, 1991, Geneva Opera, 1992. Conductor, music director, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, 1976-1987. Music adviser, Nashville (Tennessee) Symphony, 1975.

      Conducted, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Royal Philharmonic, Suiss Romande, Dresden Staatskapelle, Leipzig Lewardhaus, Orchestra de Paris. Music director St. Louis Opera, 1981-1991, principal guest conductor, since 1991.


Married Anita Christine Johnsen, September 4, 1964. Children: Kirsten, Kari.

Wilton Mons Nelson

Thelma (Agnew) Nelson

Anita Christine Johnsen

Kirsten Nelson

Kari Nelson