Carlos Kleiber was the son of German conductor Erich Kleiber. He was a talented conductor in his own right. Throughout his career he refused to enter into any formal relationship with a particular opera house or orchestra.
Carlos Kleiber’s family lived in Berlin, where his father was the Principal Conductor of the State Opera. In 1935 they left Germany for political reasons and moved to South America. Erich Kleiber was regularly invited to conduct the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and young Carlos began to study music. He then moved back to Europe to be closer to his extended family. Carlos Kleiber chose to study Chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich to please his father, who had strongly dissuaded him from pursuing a career in music. But his passion soon caught up with him and in 1952 he accepted a position at the Gärtnerplatz Theater in Munich. He made his debut conducting at Potsdam in 1954. Two years later he was hired by the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf, then, in 1964, by the Zurich Opera. In 1966, he worked closely with the Stuttgart and Munich opera companies, giving several remarkable performances, which were career milestones.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Carlos Kleiber developed a strong taste for opera directing a production of Tristan und Isolde at the Bayreuth Festival in 1974, which brought together Catarina Ligendza, Helge Brilioth and Yvonne Minton, and Puccini's La Bohème at the Metropolitan New York Opera, in 1988, featuring Luciano Pavarotti and Mirella Freni.
He twice conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s traditional New Year's Concert, in 1989 and 1992. In addition to exploring opera, Kleiber dedicated a good deal of time to the Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart and Haydn symphonies.
Carlos Kleiber made his first recordings later in his career. He began with Carl Maria von Weber's opera Freischütz, which he recorded in 1973 in Dresden for Deutsche Grammophon. A year later, he recorded Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. His relatively small discography and rare appearances in concert gave him an air of mystique and gravitas. He was billed to succeed Karajan, in 1989, as Principal Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic but refused to take on the role.
Six Landmarks Dates in the Life of Carlos Kleiber
1966 : Conducted Wozzeck by Alban Berg at the Edinburgh Festival, a work which his father had premiered in Berlin in 1925.
1973 : Made his first recording, Le Freischütz by Carl Maria von Weber.
1974 : Conducted for the first time at Bayreuth.
1989 : Conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s traditional New Year's Concert
1999 : Gave his last concerts before retiring