With more than two hundred and fifty recordings to his credit and an intensive schedule as singer, conductor, scholar, and teacher, René Jacobs has achieved an eminent position in the field of Baroque and Classical vocal music.
He received his early musical training as a choirboy at the cathedral of his native city of Ghent. Alongside his advanced studies of Classics at the University of Ghent, he continued to study singing. His encounters with Alfred Deller, the Kuijken brothers, and Gustav Leonhardt were to determine his orientation towards Baroque music and the countertenor repertory, in which he soon established his reputation. In 1977 he founded the ensemble Concerto Vocale with which he explored this repertory throughout Europe and in Japan. He then began to make a series of innovative recordings for harmonia mundi, all of which won awards from the international press.
His career as an operatic conductor began in 1983 with the production of Cesti’s L’Orontea at the Innsbruck Festival, of which he was director until 2009. His passion for Venetian opera, to which he constantly returns, has resulted in triumphs in two works by Cavalli, La Calisto (in a production by Herbert Wernicke) and Eliogabalo. His collaboration with the Berlin Staatsoper and the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels has led him to conduct Telemann’s Orpheus and Der geduldige Socrates, Graun’s Cleopatra e Cesare, Gassmann’s Opera seria, Keiser’s Croesus, Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and Haydn’s Orlando Paladino. He has also conducted regularly at the Aix-en-Provence Festival (since 1998), at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and Salle Pleyel in Paris, and in Vienna (Theater an der Wien). Vienna and Berlin now constitute his twin bases for opera productions.
Rene Jacobs has received many distinctions from music critics in Europe and the USA, where his recording of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro won a Grammy Award (Best Opera 2005). Classica magazine voted him ‘Artist of the year 2009’ for his recordings of Telemann’s Brockes-Passion, Mozart’s Idomeneo, and Haydn’s Die Schöpfung. In 2010 his astonishing version of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte was released to enthusiastic acclaim (CD des Jahres in Opernwelt, Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Choc de l’année 2010 in Classica, BBC Music Magazine Award). His most recent releases were a new recording and a world premiere of an oratorio by Pergolesi, Septem verba a Christo in cruce followed by a St Matthew’s Passion of J.S Bach (ECHO-Preis 2014, Choc de l’année 2013 by the French magazine Classica).
René Jacobs holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Ghent.