was born in San Francisco to Russian and Armenian emigré parents. He made his debut as a piano prodigy with the San Francisco Symphony at the age of 11. After graduating from The Juilliard School, he embarked on a career as a piano virtuoso that included appearances with major symphony orchestras throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Russia. His recording of the Khachaturian Piano Concerto on the Chandos label, with conductor Neeme Järvi, won the “Best Concerto Recording of the Year” award in the UK.
Orbelian’s appointment in 1991 as Music Director of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra was a breakthrough event: he is the first American ever to become music director of an ensemble in Russia.
He is the founder of the annual Palaces of St. Petersburg International Music Festival and is the Chief Conductor of the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra in Lithuania. In 2016 he also became General and Artistic Director of the State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater in Yerevan, Armenia. During his four-year tenure in Armenia, Orbelian created new productions of Bizet’s Carmen, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Massenet’s Manon, and Karen Khachaturian’s ballet Cipollino. He restored a historic production of Donizetti’s opera Poliuto, produced the ballet La Bohème to the music of Charles Aznavour and brought Renée Fleming for the first time to Armenia for a recital. In 2018, Orbelian brought the Armenian Ballet company to the famed stage of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow for gala performances of Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane. Performances at Dubai Opera and the grand opening of the new Opera House in Kuwait were high points of the 2018 season. In all of these and other music centers, Orbelian leads concerts and recordings with some of the world’s greatest singers.
Opera News calls Constantine Orbelian “the singer’s dream collaborator,” and commented that he conducts vocal repertoire “with the sensitivity of a lieder pianist.” The California-based conductor tours and records with American stars such as Renée Fleming, Sondra Radvanovsky, Lawrence Brownlee and Stephen Costello, and made numerous celebrated recordings for Delos with Dmitri Hvorostovsky before the legendary singer’s untimely death. Appearances in the USA have included numerous performances at the Great Performers series at Lincoln Center, Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall and the Mostly Mozart Festival, as well as performances at the great musical centers in the United States, Canada, and Central and South America.
Among his concert and televised appearances are collaborations with stars Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and with Van Cliburn in Cliburn’s sentimental return to Moscow — the great pianist’s last performance. Orbelian’s frequent collaborations with Hvorostovsky included repertoire from their Delos recordings of universal sentimental songs, Where Are You, My Brothers? ja Moscow Nights, as well as their 2015 recording in the same series, Wait for Me. His recordings with Hvorostovsky of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra ja Rigoletto have become legendary. Rigoletto was nominated for a GRAMMY® Award in the Best Opera recording category. Orbelian has conducted historic live telecasts from Moscow’s Red Square, with such artists as Hvorostovsky and Anna Netrebko, viewed live around the world by 198 million people and subsequently issued on Deutsche Grammophon. Orbelian has also released recordings on Philips, Warner Classics and Finlandia. An award-winning DVD released on the Decca label — Renee Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, a Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg — was broadcast on the Great Performances series on PBS.