Francesco Molinari-Pradelli was a leading Italian opera conductor of the 20th century. He studied piano and composition in Bologna, and continued these studies at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, adding conducting studies with Bernardino Molinari (no apparent relation). He graduated in 1938. His first performances were as an orchestral concert conductor. His first operatic performance was a production of Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, a production that traveled to Bologna, Bergamo, and Brescia.
He built a reputation during the war years that enabled him to debut at La Scala in 1946, the year it reopened after its bombing. He quickly became known as a reliable opera conductor capable of strong leadership, ability to accompany the greatest stars on the opera stage, and creator of exciting performances (although not always possessing great individuality or new insight).
He debuted at Covent Garden in London in 1956, leading Tosca with Tebaldi in the title role, and returned in 1960 to lead Verdi's Macbeth, a performance that contributed to a rising interest in Verdi's lesser-heard operas.
He debuted in San Francisco in 1957 and was much in demand there; one of his most memorable performances was a Turandot in 1964 with Birgit Nilsson in the title role. His Vienna debut was at the Staatsoper in 1959, and his first performance at the Metropolitan was in 1966. He returned to that house often during the next two decades.
He also maintained his skills as a pianist, delighting in taking breaks from the standardized nature of the Italian operatic repertory by playing little known pieces. He was also appreciated as a vocal recital accompanist. His recording in that capacity in songs of Rossini with Suzanne Danco attained legendary status. His Turandot performance with Nilsson is one of the three or four top recordings of the opera, and he accompanied some performances on disc by Maria Callas. In 1966, a record of his, Prima Donna with Leontyne Price, won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Soloist Performance (With or Without Orchestra). He died in his hometown of Bologna four days after his 85th birthday.