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Bruno Bartoletti, conductor of Lyric Opera of Chicago

Mr. Bartoletti remained associated with Lyric Opera after retiring in 1999.

Carlo Ferraro/EPA

Mr. Bartoletti remained associated with Lyric Opera after retiring in 1999.

WASHINGTON — Bruno Bartoletti, an Italian conductor who helped transform the Lyric Opera of Chicago into one of the most respected and daring opera companies of its kind, died Sunday in Florence. He was 86.

The Lyric Opera announced his death but did not cite a specific cause.

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Mr. Bartoletti was 30 when he flew to the United States to make a hastily planned US debut in Chicago in 1956. The fledgling Lyric Opera sorely needed a conductor to replace the ailing maestro Tullio Serafin in several performances. Tito Gobbi, the acclaimed Italian baritone, put in a word for the young Mr. Bartoletti.

His debut — in Verdi’s ‘‘Il Trovatore’’ — would be the first of nearly 600 performances of 55 operas with the Lyric Opera over the next five decades. Mr. Bartoletti was named the company’s co-artistic director, with Pino Donati, in 1964 and became the sole artistic director in 1975.

He remained associated with the Lyric Opera after his official retirement in 1999, bringing to the Chicago music scene a degree of constancy rarely found in the tumultuous opera world.

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