Ernst Raffelsberger was born in Gmunden in Upper Austria and studied music teaching and church music at the Academy of Music and the Performing Arts in Vienna, where his teachers included Erwin Ortner for choral conducting. He later attended Walter Hagen-Groll’s course in choral conducting at the Salzburg Mozarteum. From 1983 to 1986 he conducted the Vienna Boys Choir both in Vienna and on tours of Europe, South Africa, Canada and the United States. In 1986 he was appointed chorus master and assistant conductor at the Salzburg Landestheater, leading to his involvement in the Mozart Week Festival and the Salzburg Festival. In 1989 Donald Runnicles invited him to join the Freiburg Theatre as chorus master and conductor.
Since autumn 1993 Ernst Raffelsberger has been chorus master at the Zurich Opera, where he has been in charge of more than one hundred new productions, working with many leading conductors such as Riccardo Chailly, Christoph von Dohnányi, Vladimir Fedoseyev, John Eliot Gardiner, Daniele Gatti, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Zubin Mehta and Franz Welser-Möst. Guest appearances with the company have taken him to Vienna, London, Paris and Tokyo. Numerous CDs and DVDs document his work with them.
Since 2012 Ernst Raffelsberger has worked as chorus master of the Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus at the Salzburg Festival, preparing the chorus for opera productions that have included Die Zauberflöte (2012 and 2018), Così fan tutte, Le nozze di Figaro, Fidelio, Fierrabras, Il trovatore, Ernani, La bohème, Carmen, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Der Rosenkavalier, Die Liebe der Danae, Aida, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Wozzeck, Lucrezia Borgia and The Queen of Spades, while his concert work includes Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Berlioz’s Messe solennelle, Verdi’s Requiem, Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten, Bruckner’s Te Deum and Schubert’s Mass in E flat major. Among the conductors with whom he has worked in Salzburg are Harnoncourt, Gatti, Welser-Möst, Simon Rattle, Riccardo Muti, Ingo Metzmacher, Valery Gergiev, Philippe Jordan, Gianandrea Noseda, Dan Ettinger, Ottavio Dantone, Marco Armiliato, Mariss Jansons, Vladimir Jurowski and Constantinos Carydis.