Born into a musical family in Shanghai in the early 1960s, Lü Jia began studying piano and violin with his parents at a very young age. He later studied conducting at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Under the instruction of renowned conductor Ms Zheng Xiaoying, he graduated at the top of his class one year early, in 1988. The following year, he went to Germany’s Berlin University of the Arts, where he continued his studies under Professors Hans-Martin Rabenstein and Robert Wolf.
In 1989, Lü was awarded both the First Prize and the Judges’ Prize in the Antonio Pedrotti International Conducting Competition in Trento, Italy, and launched his career as a conductor. Over the past decade and a half, he has conducted 2,000 concerts and operas in Europe and the Americas, and has cooperated with more than 100 opera houses and orchestras, including the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, the Deutsche Oper Berlin and La Scala in Milan, as well as opera houses in Lausanne, Turin, Rome, Naples, Verona, Venice, Florence, Frankfurt and Stuttgart. He has also worked with the Berlin Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra, the Hamburg Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic, the Bamberg Symphony, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Italy’s RAI National Symphony Orchestra, Rome’s Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, England’s City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Norway’s Oslo Philharmonic, the Lyon National Orchestra in France, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and all the major orchestras in Australia.
Lü Jia was the first Chinese conductor ever to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and to record the complete orchestral works of German composer Felix Mendelssohn. His symphonic performances, especially his interpretations of German works and those of the French Impressionists, have been praised as exemplars of "an extremely convincing musical interpretation" and "touching musical language and perfect conducting technique.”
Opera has always played a special role in Lü Jia’s career. In Italy and Germany, homelands of the European opera tradition, he has directed nearly fifty operas. As the first Asian conductor to serve as director of a nationally-recognised opera company in Italy, he was praised by one Italian music critic as “a conductor who understands Italian opera even better than Italians do.”
Lü has been the Principal Conductor for the Trieste Opera, the Tuscany Regional Orchestra in Florence, the Lazio Chamber Orchestra in Rome and Sweden’s Norrköping Symphony Orchestra. He has also been a frequent guest conductor with the Hallé Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England, the Dortmund Opera House in Germany and the Milan Giuseppe Verdi Symphony Orchestra in Italy.
At present, Lü is Music Director of the Arena di Verona, the world’s largest open-air opera theatre and Artistic Director of the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra in Spain. In September 2008, he was named Musical Director and Principal Conductor of the Macao Orchestra.