Born in Upper Austria, Ernst Theis studied in Vienna at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts (now the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna).
His beginnings as a conductor lie with the Österreichische Kammersymphoniker, as whose artistic director and managing director from 1991 -2003 he was intensively involved with music of the classical modern period, contemporary music and later also with Viennese classical music. After a stint in 1996 at the Vienna Volksoper, he became Kapellmeister there for almost four years. In the same year he took part in an international conducting competition at the International Summer Courses for New Music Darmstadt, which he won as 1st prize winner under the chairmanship of Peter Eötvös.
His career then took him to many orchestras at home and abroad such as the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Basel Symphony Orchestra, the Bochum Symphony Orchestra, the Rhineland-Palatinate State Philharmonic Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the orchestras of the German radio stations Saarbrücken/Kaiserslautern (SR), Cologne (WDR), Munich (BR), Hanover (NDR), Leipzig (MDR) as well as the RSO Vienna (ORF), the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and many others.
Since 2015, Ernst Theis has been an artist of the renowned Japanese agency JAPAN ARTS. In June 2018, he made his debut with the Osaka Symphony Orchestra.
From 2003 to 2013 he was chief conductor of the then initially crisis-ridden Dresden State Operetta. His distinctly conceptual visionary approach to artistic work opened up the recording market for this theater, gradually enabled guest appearances in renowned concert halls such as the Cologne Philharmonie, Hamburg’s Laeisz Hall, and the Brucknerhaus Linz, and led to repeated invitations to renowned festivals such as the Kurt Weill Fest Dessau. In 2011, the political decision was made to build a new theater, and the new theater was opened in December 2016, thus also securing the existence of the house.
One of his central artistic activities is the RadioMusiken project, on which he has worked for many years in collaboration with the Akademie der Künste Berlin, Deutschlandradio Kultur, Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk and the German CD label CPO as a recording project both artistically and scientifically. Ernst Theis conducts research at the JAM MUSIC LAB private university in Vienna in the fields of historical and contemporary media music with a focus on the sociology of music. In February 2020, he presented the RadioMusiken project at the tradition-rich Gewandhaus Leipzig together with the MDR Symphony Orchestra to great public acclaim, as reported in the press.
For his CD label CPO he regularly records together with orchestras such as the Munich Radio Orchestra, the Brandenburg State Orchestra (BSOF), the Deutsche Radiophilharmonie Saarbrücken/Kaiserlautern or the RSO Vienna. Today, he successfully collaborates with many orchestras on different continents in an artistic spectrum ranging from early Viennese classical to avant-garde.
His current debuts are with the Symphony Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB).