RUGGERO Barbieri, Italian conductor and former music director and principal conductor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), died at age 60 of a brain aneurysm at the Pope John XX111 Hospital in Bergamo, Italy on March 20.

Mr. Barbieri had worked with the PPO from 1996 to 2004 and was the first foreign conductor to hold two consecutive terms with the orchestra.

“It is with deep sadness for the PPO to have received the news of the passing of our former music director and principal conductor, Maestro Ruggero Barbieri yesterday, March 21, 2022,” said PPO orchestra director Eugene Delos Santos in a statement from the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). “As music director from 1996 to 2004, he was an amazing and generous mentor who tirelessly contributed to the training and musical growth of the PPO. We feel so lucky that we got to know and learned from him during his term as our principal conductor. He will surely be missed.”

Mr. Barbieri brought the orchestra on a series of successful Asian and European tours, including its first European Concert Tour in 2001 which he organized and conducted.

Mr. Barbieri made his Asian debut as an opera conductor with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the CCP in 1997, followed by Don Giovanni (1999) and Il Trovatore in Singapore (2001).

More recently, Mr. Barbieri conducted the Pundaquit Virtuosi String Ensemble’s European tour in June to July 2019, organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila. Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, he was set to be the group’s Resident Conductor in the beginning 2020.

“We owe many of our memorable, magical and cinematic moments to the Maestro, not only in music-making, but outside as well,” wrote founder and Artistic Director of the Pundaquit Virtuosi, Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata on social media. He went on to tell about when the conductor “unexpectedly appeared backstage in Belgium a minute before the rising of the curtain, as we were about to walk onstage… with his booming bass, already clad in his signature blue barong and holding his baton.”

From 2003 until 2019, Mr. Barbieri would conduct the PPO at the annual Christmas Concert at The Pen, returning to the Philippines for the occasion when he was based in Italy. He had been scheduled to return this year to conduct the concert again.

Posting a video clip on Facebook of her rehearsal with the PPO for the Christmas concert in 2019, soprano Alexa Kaufman wrote: “He is one of the most appreciative and kind conductors I know. May he rest in peace.”

Born on May 5, 1961 in Bergamo, Italy, Mr. Barbieri studied at the Guiseppe Verdi Conservatory of Milan, the Music Academy of Pescara, and the Konservatorium fur Musik in Vienna.

Mr. Barbieri is survived by his 21-year-old son Piolo and two sisters, Daniela and Federica. — MAPS