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Oliver von Dohnányi studied in the faculty of music at the Academy of Performing Arts Prague with Václav Neumann and later at Vienna's University of Music and Performing Arts with Otmar Suitner. Directly after his studies, he was appointed to a conducting position with the Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (since renamed the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra). At the age of 28, he became the music director of the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, the youngest in the institution's history. There he conducted Madama Butterfly, Aida, La bohème, Rusalka, Macbeth, Tosca, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Bellini's La sonnambula, Gounod's Faust, Slovak composer Eugen Suchoň's The Whirlpool, along with many other works. In addition, he toured regularly, visiting Spain, Bulgaria, China, Hungary, Germany and the Netherlands. Starting in 1993, he also took up conducting the Slovak Philharmonic alongside his duties with the opera orchestra.

He later switched his principal base of operations from Bratislava to Prague, where he joined the Czech National Theatre as a guest conductor before eventually being appointed music director. There his repertoire included works by Mozart and the Italian Romantic opera oeuvre as well as The Bartered Bride and Libuše by Smetana. He also conducted the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella by Prokofiev. During this same period, he also had many foreign engagements as a guest conductor with renowned opera houses all over the world such as the English National Opera, the Barbican Centre, Opera North, Bayerische Staatsoper, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, and the Mannheim Nationaltheater. He also conducted such renowned ensembles as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra. His career took him to every corner of the world including Europe, the USA, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. He conducted Christopher Alden's 2012 production of Norma, which won the British Opera Award for “best opera of 2012”. Between 2015 and 2020, Dohnányi joined Yekaterinburg's Ural Opera and Ballet Theatre as first conductor. In 2015, he conducted Thaddeus Strassberger's new version of the Philip Glass opera Satyagraha at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre. The production won two Golden Mask awards. He has also worked with various record companies, having recorded on the Naxos, Lyra, Opus, Audiophon, Panton, Supraphon, Marco Polo and Novalis labels.

He made his debut at the Hungarian State Opera in 2016 with Gounod’s Faust and has been a recurring guest conductor since. In 2017, on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, he conducted the new production of Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots at the Erkel Theatre, and in 2020, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand) at the Locomotive Hall of the Eiffel Art Studios. He was the conductor of the revivals of two Hungarian comic operas at the Bánffy Stage of the Eiffel Art Studios: Tante Simona by Ernst von Dohnányi and Le luthier de Crémone by Jenő Hubay, both of which were recorded on CD and film. In 2024, he conducts the performances of The Queen of Spades by Tchaikovsky at the Opera House.

Oliver von Dohnányi