With more than 260 recordings to his credit and an intensive career 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 education as a choirboy at St Bavo cathedral in his native city of Ghent, then remained active as a singer during his studies in Classical Philology. His encounters with Alfred Deller, Gustav Leonhardt and the Kuijken brothers were to determine his orientation towards Baroque music and specialization as countertenor, in which he very soon established his reputation as one of the most prominent singers of his time. In 1977, he founded the Concerto Vocale with which he explored Baroque operatic and vocal chamber music repertoire through numerous recordings, including several internationally award-winning world premieres.
René Jacobs made his debut as an opera conductor in 1983 with a production of Cesti’s L’Orontea at the Innsbruck Festival of early Music, where later he held the position of artistic director from 1996 to 2009. Through his long successful collaborations with the Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden since 1992, Theater an der Wien (Vienna) since 2006, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie (Brussels), Salzburger Festspiele, Festival of Aix-en-Provence, Paris Opera and other leading international stages, he has been conducting from early baroque to Rossini and from the most unknown to the most famous titles.
His work is distinctive for its pioneering spirit and profound studies of historical sources. This approach is particularly illustrated in his recordings of Mozart’s operas, but also in the sacred repertoire such as Maddelena ai piedi di Cristo by Caldara, Il primo omicidio by Scarlatti or as an innovative performer of the well-known repertoire of J.S. Bach’s Passions or Mozart’s Requiem. Increasingly, René Jacobs has given the symphonic repertoire a growing place, first with Haydn and Mozart, and more recently Schubert.
René Jacobs is Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Ghent.