His commitment to community outreach and obvious enjoyment of his work have gained him such praises as "a conductor with deep musical convictions...whose enthusiasm is infectious" (Louisville Times). "Conductor Robert Bernhardt and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra have brought the excitement back to concert going" (Arizona Daily Star). Leading performances of PDQ Bach and Peter Schickele, he made his Carnegie Hall conducting debut in 1978, and he has recorded for First Edition and Vanguard Records. In the winter of 1997, he made his eighth appearance with the Boston Pops in Symphony Hall, Boston. From 1993 to 1997 he served as Artistic Director of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta, a summer chamber orchestra located in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York.
Maestro Bernhardt is also very active in the world of opera. With cso, he has conducted productions of Hansel and Gretel, La Boheme, Il Trovatore, Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Carmen, Tosca, Elixir of Love, Pagliacci, Susannah, opera and opera galas, and concert performances of Fidelio,Turandotand A Night of Wagner. His opera productions have garnered much praise including "Conductor Robert Bernhardt was indeed the mastermind behind this nearly flawless production of the work..." (The Chattanooga Times). Bernhardt's first assignment with the Kentucky Opera, with which he has worked since 1982, earned him international notice for his work in Britten's Turn of the Screw. He has since conducted such repertoire in Louisville as Rigoletto, Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, Carmen, Magic Flute, Albert Herring, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Cosi Fan tutte, The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro and numerous Gilbert and Sullivan operettas as well as My Fair Lady. He has also conducted the Nashville Opera, the Birmingham Opera, and the symphony orchestras of Detroit and St. Louis.
Born in Rochester, New York, Robert Bernhardt holds a Master's Degree with honors from the University of Southern California School of Music where he studied with Daniel Lewis. He is also a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of Union College in Schenectady, New York, and was an Academic All-American baseball player.
In a recent newspaper interview Bernhardt said, "As Chattanooga becomes my central focus, I hope to work for gradual, steady and responsible growth--particularly in terms of educational programming." For the past four seasons, the cso's $1.6 million annual budget has balanced. "I hope the orchestra will become an even greater partner in the regeneration of this community," Bernhardt said. Maestro Bernhardt is loved and appreciated by both concert-goers and the musicians of the cso.
A message from the Maestro