Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare's profound musicianship, technical brilliance and charismatic presence on the podium has elevated him as one of the most sought after young conductors, working regularly with the world's leading orchestras. In January 2015, he made his acclaimed debut with the Vienna Philharmonic conducting subscription concerts at the Musikverein and in Paris at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées. That season also saw his London debut with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre and his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival. In September 2014, he was appointed Chief Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast, with whom he made his Proms debut in August 2016. In October, it was announced that his contract with the Ulster Orchestra would be extended for a further two years and that he would resume the title of Music Director in recognition of his rapport with the players and the outstanding impact that he has made on the Orchestra.
As a guest conductor, he has worked with many leading ensembles including the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Hessischer Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Philharmonia Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Bamberger Symphoniker, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony, NHK Symphony and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Last season also saw his conducting debut at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam with the Rotterdam Philharmonic and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic orchestras. Following his opera debut conducting Madame Butterfly at the Royal Swedish Opera in January 2015, he returned last season to conduct La Boheme. Soloists with whom he has enjoyed collaborations include Daniil Trifonov, Frank Peter Zimmerman, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Nikolai Lugansky, Alisa Weilerstein, Nikolaj Znaider, Piotr Anderszewski, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Sergey Khachatryan, Jonathan Biss and Alexander Melnikov.
Highlights of the 2017-18 season will include return visits to the Vienna Philharmonic for concerts at the Vienna Konzerthaus and on tour with Elina Garanca, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Czech Philharmonic and the Orchestre de le Suisse Romande, plus debuts with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Staatskapelle Dresden, Minnesota Orchestra and his Berlin subscription debut with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. He will also commence a Bruckner symphony cycle with the Aalborg Symfoniorkester in Denmark.
In May 2012, Payare was awarded first prize at the Malko International Conducting Competition, and in July 2012, he was personally invited by his mentor, the late Lorin Maazel, to conduct at his Castleton Festival in Virginia. This led to a close association and, in July 2015, he was honoured to accept the position of Principal Conductor of the Castleton Festival. In the summer of 2015, he conducted performances of Gounod 'Romeo and Juliette’ and a performance of Beethoven Symphony No 9 in memory of Lorin Maazel.
Born in 1980 and a graduate of the celebrated El Sistema in Venezuela, Payare began his formal conducting studies in 2004 with José Antonio Abreu. He has conducted all the major orchestras in Venezuela, including the Simón Bolívar Orchestra. Having also served as Principal Horn of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, he took part in many prestigious tours and recordings with conductors including Giuseppe Sinopoli, Claudio Abbado, Sir Simon Rattle and Lorin Maazel.