He simultaneously studied philosophy and music: violin, flute, composition and conducting at the Milan Conservatoire. He continued his studies under such masters as Sandór Végh (chamber music at the Mozarteum in Salzburg), Franco Donatoni (composition), and Peter Eötvös (conducting). For 14 years he played in Italy’s leading orchestras (La Scala, Turin Radio Orchestra, La Fenice) under conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Seiji Ozawa, Carlo Maria Giulini and Leonard Bernstein. Following these experiences, he decided to dedicate himself to conducting.
Renato Rivolta is especially interested in the music of our time. Since 1989, he has worked with Peter Eötvös – first as his student, then as his assistant. He has also collaborated with Pierre Boulez, David Robertson, Markus Stenz, George Benjamin, Arturo Tamayo, Jonathan Nott and Mark Foster. He has presented contemporary music programmes at leading festivals including Ars Musica (Brussels), Time of Music (Viitaasari, Finland), Wien Modern, Musica (Strasbourg), Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Festival (Lisbon), Milano Musica, Luciano Berio Festival at La Scala, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Cité de la Musique Festival in Paris, BBC Festival in Edinburgh, Huddersfield, Berlin Konzerthaus, Archipel in Geneva, Présences in Paris, and the Warsaw Autumn. He has also conducted concerts in the BBC’s Sounding the Century series and performances by ensembles and orchestras such as Ensemble intercontemporain (in 1996–98 he was assistant artistic director of this ensemble), Ensemble Modern, Klangforum Wien, Contrechamps Genève, Netherlands Brass Ensemble, 2e2m, Nieuw Ensemble, L’Itinéraire, Israel Contemporary Players (close collaboration since 2000), KammerensembleN Stockholm, Orchestra della Toscana Florence, Radio France Orchestra, Tokyo Sinfonietta, North German Radio, Orquestra Nacional do Porto, Radio France Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lyon, Sinfonia Varsovia, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, and others.
In 2009–11 he was the main conductor to the Orchestra Sinfonica della Valle d’Aosta, and since 2001 – conductor of the new music ensembles of the Orchestra Giovanile Italiana (OGI) at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole. He has also appeared as a guest conductor at the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala.
In 1994 he took part in a production of Stockhausen’s Gruppen at Salzburg Festival. In 1997, he conducted Berio’s Sinfonia at La Monnaie in Brussels; in 1999 – a stage production of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre in Paris. In 1992–98 he conducted Ensemble Nuove Sincronie in Milan. He has collaborated with such eminent composers as John Adams, George Benjamin, Luciano Berio, Elliott Carter, Franco Donatoni, Luis de Pablo, Gérard Grisey, Luca Francesconi, Ivan Fedele, György Ligeti, Tristan Murail, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, as well as outstanding soloists including Kim Kashkashian, Tabea Zimmermann, Enrico Bronzi, Gabriele Cassone, Marco Blaauw, Alessandro Carbonare, Nicholas Hodges, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Valdine Anderson, Anita Rachesvili, Lucy Shelton, and Ewa Pobłocka.
Renato Rivolta is a lecturer at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et Danse in Paris and the Scuola Civica di Musica in Milan, where he heads the Conducting Department. He is also a composer; his works have been performed in Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Finland, Israel and the United States.