Born in Hanover, Ingo Metzmacher studied piano, music theory, and conducting in his home town, as well as in Salzburg and Cologne. He found his first artistic home in Frankfurt with the Ensemble Modern and at the Frankfurt Opera under the artistic directorship of Michael Gielen. His international career began in 1988, during Gerard Mortier’s tenure as director of the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, when he stepped in to conduct a new production of Franz Schreker’s Der ferne Klang.
He was General Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera from 1997 until 2005, where he led a series of internationally acclaimed productions, many of them in collaboration with stage director Peter Konwitschny. Subsequently, he was named Chief Conductor of the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam. Highlights of his tenure there include performances of Henze’s The Bassarids, Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt, Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise, and Mozart’s Da Ponte operas.
From 2007 to 2010, Metzmacher was Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, where his innovative thematic concert cycles – among them From the German Soul, Breakthrough 1909, and Temptation, as well as a new series titled Casual Concerts – made a lasting impact on the city’s musical life. Various tours led him and the orchestra through Europe and Southeast Asia. In 2016, he was appointed Artistic Director of the Hanover-based multidisciplinary arts festival KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen.
His 2018-2019 season includes the world premiere of Johannes Maria Staud’s Die Weiden at the Vienna State Opera, new productions of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Paris and Enescus Œdipe at the Salzburg Festival, as well as the French premiere of Rihm’s Jakob Lenz at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. He returns to The Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra and Ensemble Modern, and conducts the National Youth Orchestra of Germany on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. In May 2019, he presents the fourth edition of the KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen under his artistic direction.
Metzmacher has led productions at many of the great international opera houses including the Vienna, Berlin and Bavarian State Operas, Covent Garden, La Scala, Teatro Real, Opéra de Paris and the Zurich Opera House. Highlights of recent seasons include new productions of operas by Luigi Nono, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, and Wolfgang Rihm at the Salzburg Festival, as well as the complete cycle of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen at Grand Théâtre de Genève. He has conducted leading orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Russian National Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
As a pianist, he has appeared in recitals with Christine Schäfer, Matthias Goerne, and Christian Gerhaher at the Aspen Music Festival, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Schubertiade Schwarzenberg, and the Salzburg Festival.
Metzmacher's wide discography includes live recordings of his celebrated New Year’s Eve concerts in Hamburg from 1999 to 2004, titled Who’s Afraid of 20th Century Music?, a complete recording of Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s symphonies with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, the world premiere of Hans Werner Henze’s Ninth Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic, Olivier Messiaen’s Illuminations of the Beyond… with the Vienna Philharmonic, Hans Pfitzner’s Von deutscher Seele, and Engelbert Humperdinck’s Königskinder with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, as well as live recordings of Lady Macbeth of Mzensk at the Vienna State Opera and Luigi Nono’s Prometeo at the Salzburg Festival.
In his book Vorhang auf! Oper entdecken und erleben [Curtain Up! Discovering and Experiencing Opera], published in 2009, Metzmacher presents operas from four centuries and explains the making of a music theatre production. He is also the author of Keine Angst vor neuen Tönen [Don’t Be Afraid of New Sounds], published in 2005, a passionate plea for pioneering composers such as Luigi Nono, Charles Ives, Olivier Messiaen, Arnold Schoenberg, Edgard Varèse, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and John Cage.