Born in 1958, Naoto Otomo graduated from the Toho Gakuen School of Music having studied conducting under Seiji Ozawa, Kazuyoshi Akiyama, Tadaaki Otaka and Morihiro Okabe. His studies took him to Tanglewood where he worked with conductors such as André Previn, Leonard Bernstein and Igor Markevitch. While still a student at Toho Gakuen, Naoto Otomo was named Assistant Conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, and upon the recommendation of its members, made his debut with the orchestra at the age of 22. During his career, Naoto Otomo has regularly made appearances with major orchestras both in Japan and abroad. Having previously held the posts of Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, Permanent Conductor of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, Principal Conductor, Permanent Conductor as well as Music Director of the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, he is currently Music Director of the Gunma Symphony Orchestra, Honorary Guest Conductor of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, Conductor Laureate of the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, and Music Advisor to the Ryukyu Symphony Orchestra. In 2004, he was appointed as the first Music Director of the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan concert hall, a post he held for 8 years. He also led the Osaka Philharmonic on a tour of Europe in 1986, and his tours with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra to Southeast Asia in 1992, Portugal in 1994 and 1996, and Europe in 2001 were all extremely successful.
Outside Japan, Naoto Otomo has appeared with the Colorado Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra; in July 2001 he led the Philharmonia Orchestra on their tour to Japan, in March 2012 he conducted the opening concert of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, and returned to this orchestra in the spring of 2014, 2015 and will return in the spring of 2017. In June 2012 he appeared as a guest conductor with the Lorraine National Orchestra.
Naoto Otomo’s career also includes collaborations with numerous soloists including: violinists Gil Shaham, Augustin Dumay, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Joshua Bell, Jean-Jacques Kantorow and Shlomo Mintz; violists Gérard Caussé and Yuri Bashmet; cellists Mario Brunello and David Geringas; pianists Radu Lupu, André Watts, Bruno-Leonardo Gelber, Ivan Moravec, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Cyprien Katsaris, Jean-Phillipe Collard, Cristina Ortiz, and Hélène Grimaud. His work with tenor José Carreras was also highly praised, and he regularly receives requests from many of these artists for further collaborations.
Following his opera debut in 1988 with Weber’s Der Freischütz at the Nissay Theatre, Naoto Otomo has also been active in opera; he has conducted productions such as Gluck’s Orfeo and Eurydice, Verdi’s Rigoletto, Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Shigeaki Saegusa’s Chushingura.
In February 2006, Otomo led the Tokyo Symphony in a production of Ai-En – To Die for Love – (composed by Minoru Miki, libretto by Jakucho Setouchi), and in June of the same year, he led a joint production between the Tokyo and Kyoto Symphonies to perform Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder in the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. Other notable productions include Jr. Butterfly, composed by Shigeaki Saegusa and performed in August 2006 at the Puccini Festival in Italy, the world premiere of Saegusa’s KAMIKAZE in January 2013, as well as Akira Senju’s new opera, Taki no Shiraito in January 2014, all of which attracted great interest.
Otomo has also conducted Toshiro Mayuzumi’s Kojiki (Days of the Gods) and Elgar’s The Kingdom, The Apostles and The Dream of Gerontius as part of the Tokyo Symphony’s subscription concerts; his conducting the Japanese premiere of Mayuzumi’s opera Kojiki (Days of Gods) as part of the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan 50th Anniversary Festival drew much attention and was critically acclaimed.
Naoto Otomo’s repertoire ranges from classical to contemporary works, and since his first recording at the age of 20, his work has been featured on numerous albums. His latest work, a recording with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra of Holst’s orchestral suite The Planets, has been released in Japan by King Records.
Creating new music scenes in which classical and music from other genres collaborate, Otomo does not shy away from stage productions that stray from established genres and forms of expression; he is truly an innovative music producer.
In recent years, Otomo has also been actively involved in education, and his contributions include the organization of the international music seminar “Music Masters Course Japan” alongside fellow conductor Alan Gilbert.
Naoto Otomo is the recipient of the 8th Akio Watanabe Music Foundation Award (2000) and the 7th Hideo Saito Memorial Fund Award (2008).