He launched his artistic career at the Theatre in Pilsen, where he studied a number of works from both the Czech and world repertoire. Owing to his public dissent in the wake of the 1968 military intervention in Czechoslovakia he was dismissed from the theatre. He returned to the conductor’s stand in 1973, when at the National Theatre he conducted as understudy Dvořák’s Rusalka and was subsequently engaged. Alongside taken-over performances at the National Theatre, until 1978 he conducted Verdi’s Rigoletto and Macbeth, Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Sleeping Beauty, Martinů’s Comedy on the Bridge and Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.
Following a successful guest engagement in Düsseldorf, he decided to work permanently abroad. After seven years’ activity in Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf, he became director of the Saarbrücken Opera, where besides opera performances he also conducted symphonic concerts. He appeared as a guest in most opera houses in Europe and overseas. A special position in his repertoire has always been occupied by Czech music (for instance, Janáček’s Jenůfa at Covent Garden in 1992 and Katya Kabanová in Paris and Los Angeles). Since September 1992 he has been chief conductor of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, while until 1999 he worked simultaneously as general music director in Leipzig. He returned to the National Theatre for the first time in 1995 with a concert performance of Strauss’s Elektra and then in 1996 by conducting Der Rosenkavalier. With great success he studied here Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (2000), Verdi’s Requiem (2004) and Janáček’s Jenůfa (2005). Since 1998 he has been chief conductor of the Symphonic Orchestra in St. Gallen, Switzerland. In 1999 he performed Smetana’s The Bartered Bride for the Glyndebourne Festival and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen in Berlin, in 2000 Der Rosenkavalier for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, in 2001 Jenůfa in Geneva and Katya Kabanová in Tel Aviv.
He also conducted Katya Kabanová in Glyndebourne (2002) and Jenůfa in San Francisco and Berlin. Highlights of 2003 included a concert tour with the NHK Tokyo Symphonic Orchestra and conducting in September the opening concert of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (Janáček: Sinfonietta, Dvořák: Piano Concerto in G Minor).
For the 2003/2004 season he prepared Jenůfa (directed by D. Pountney) for Bilbao, Spain and on May 12, 2004 Jiří Kout conducted Smetana’s My Country, the concert marking the opening of the Prague Spring music festival. Since 2006/2007 he has become chief conductor of the Prague symphonic orchestra FOK.