Luisi attended the Conservatorio Nicolò Paganini and was a student of Memi Schiavina. After receiving his degree in piano studies, he continued piano instruction with Aldo Ciccolini and Antonio Bacchelli.
Luisi developed an interest in conducting while working as a piano accompanist, and he studied conducting at the conservatory in Graz with Milan Horvat. He worked at the Graz Opera as an accompanist and conductor. From 1990 to 1995, he was principal conductor of the Graz Symphony Orchestra. From 1995 to 2000, he served as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Tonkünstlerorchester in Vienna. From 1996 to 1999, he was one of three main conductors of the MDR Symphony Orchestra (Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester) in Leipzig. From 1999 to 2007, he was sole principal conductor of the MDR orchestra. He was the principal conductor of l'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande from 1997 to 2002.
In January 2004, Luisi was named chief conductor of both the Staatskapelle Dresden and of the Semperoper, Dresden. Luisi was originally scheduled to step down as chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden in 2012, at the expiration of his contract. However, he resigned from both Dresden posts in February 2010, with immediate effect, after reports that the Staatskapelle's management had secured a contract with the ZDF network for a scheduled televised concert on New Year's Eve, 2010 with Christian Thielemannas conductor, without consulting him at all in his capacity as the orchestra's GMD.
Luisi served as Chief Conductor of the Vienna Symphony from 2005 through the 2012-13 season. He became General Music Director of the Zurich Opera in 2012, which also includes orchestral concert work with the opera orchestra under the name of the Philharmonia Zurich. Luisi first conducted the Danish National Symphony Orchestra in 2010. In August 2014, the orchestra announced the appointment of Luisi as its next principal conductor.
In April 2010, Luisi was named the Met's principal guest conductor, for an initial contract of three years, effective with the 2010-2011 season. He was elevated to the post of Principal Conductor in September 2011.
He won a Grammy Award for his leadership of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung on a Deutsche Grammophon DVD release of Richard Wagner’s operatic cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen. This was recorded live at the Metropolitan Opera and named Best Opera Recording of 2012.
Luisi and his wife Barbara Luisi, a photographer and violinist, have three sons. Source: Wikipedia