[...] Mr. Sinopoli, with his bushy hair and beard, the sweeping physicality of his conducting gestures and an intensely focused gaze framed by wire-rimmed glasses, was a formidable figure both on the podium and off. His conducting often had a hot- blooded larger-than-life character. He preferred extreme tempos his Mahler slow movements could be glacial and his Schubert Allegros remarkably speedy and he tended to encourage the brass and percussion to sing out over the strings.
For some listeners, these characteristics made for idiosyncratic performances. But there was never any doubt, even among Mr. Sinopoli's detractors, that his approach to music was deeply considered.

A 1983 recording of the Schumann Symphony No. 2, for example an early entry in what became a large discography on the Deutsche Grammophon label was accompanied by an essay called «Some Notes on Health and Illness in Schumann's Invention in the Second Symphony». It was a rumination typical of Mr. Sinopoli, and one he was particularly qualified to make, having written on psychoanalysis and anthropology during his student years, and having earned a medical degree before he began his musical career.

Still, he tended to prefer the philosophical to the scientific when discussing music. And he often spent stretches of his rehearsal time lecturing orchestral musicians on the extra-musical issues that concerned him in the works at hand. In this, combined with his interpretive expansiveness and his visceral conducting style, he had much in common with Leonard Bernstein.

«I think we speak of psychology because it's better for people today than speaking about spirituality,» Mr. Sinopoli told an interviewer in 1990. …If you speak about spirituality, nobody understands, or maybe they misunderstand. But when I speak about the psychological, I don't mean it in the modern sense of scientific, clinical psychology, but in the very, very old meaning of the word that is, to speak about the soul, the spirit. I don't conduct music that is not a manifestation of the existential and spiritual problems of life.»
Giuseppe Sinopoli was born in Venice on Nov. 2, 1946. He began his musical studies when he was 12 and continued them at the Venice Conservatory while also, at his father's behest, studying medicine at the University of Padua.
«My father wanted me to study something serious," Mr. Sinopoli said in a 1990 interview in The New York Times, "and he felt that for a young, intelligent boy, music was not the best choice.»
Medicine interested him, he added, as did philosophy. And indeed, he continued his academic studies outside music in recent years. This year he completed a degree in archaeology, with Egyptology as his specialty, at Rome University. He was to have been awarded his diploma today.
When he completed his medical studies in the early 1970's, though, Mr. Sinopoli turned down offers for hospital staff jobs and returned to his musical life. He studied conducting with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna and composition with Bruno Maderna and Franco Donatoni in Darmstadt, Germany. He joined the composition faculty of the Venice Conservatory in 1972, and in 1975 he founded the Bruno Maderna Ensemble, a contemporary music group.
It was as a composer that Mr. Sinopoli had his first hearing in New York. In 1978, his «Souvenirs à la mémoire» an ambitious work scored for everything from a harpsichord to four percussionists, two sopranos and a mezzo-soprano was performed in a new-music concert at the Juilliard School. Raymond Ericson, reviewing the concert in The Times, described the work as being «like a big, ornate Baroque painting, full of rich decorative effects and operatic swirlings, highlights andcontrasts».
Mr. Sinopoli continued to write works for voice, orchestra, chamber ensemble and electronics. His biggest success was Lou Salome an eclectic two-act opera about a liberated female psychoanalyst who had been a student of Freud and a lover of Nietzsche. The work had its premiere at the Munich Staatsoper in 1981; Mr. Sinopoli conducted the New York Philharmonic in a suite from the work in 1985.
As his early works were having their first performances, Mr. Sinopoli was making headway in his conducting career, which took off with an uncommon rapidity after a performance of Aida in Venice in 1978. He made his debut with the New York Philharmonic, leading the Mahler Sixth, in October 1982. Over the next several years Mr. Sinopoli was a regular presence on the Philharmonic podium, and he made a handful of recordings for Deutsche Grammophon.
He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1985, conducting Puccini's Tosca. He made his debut at the Deutsche Opera, Berlin, with Verdi's Macbeth in 1980 and at the Vienna State Opera with Verdi's Attila the same year. He made his Covent Garden debut with Puccini's Manon Lescaut in 1983; that production, with Placido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa, was televised in the United States on New Year's Eve in 1984. He made his Bayreuth debut with Tannhäuser in 1985, and he was to have led the Ring cycle there this summer. He also conducted frequently at the Salzburg Festival and in Japan, which he toured with the Bayreuth Festival company in 1989.
«Above all,» John Rockwell wrote in The Times in 1985, «one feels the inescapable presence of personality: even if one can't be quite sure where Mr. Sinopoli is heading, interpretively speaking, one always knows he's going somewhere. In an age of faceless routiniers and dogged literalists, that's explanation enough for his sudden success.»

In addition to his life as an itinerant conductor of opera and symphonic music, Mr. Sinopoli held several more settled posts, the most durable of which was the directorship of the venerable Dresden Staatskapelle Orchestra, where he had been resident conductor since 1992. From 1983 to 1987 he was the chief conductor of the St. Cecilia Academy Orchestra in Rome. He was appointed principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, of London, in 1984, and was music director from 1987 to 1995.
Mr. Sinopoli was to have become the general music director of the Deutsche Opera, Berlin, in 1990, but he left precipitously after a dispute with the company's general director, Goetz Friedrich. Friedrich died last December, and Mr. Sinopoli's performance on Friday evening, which he dedicated to Friedrich's memory, was his first at the house since 1990.
Mr. Sinopoli is survived by his wife, Silvia Cappellini, two sons, Giovanni and Marco, and several brothers and sisters.