Hugo Fiorato, 97, a former child prodigy who became the conductor of the New York City Ballet and one of its most enduring influences, died last Monday in Boston.

His death was confirmed by a stepson, Jonathan Scott.

Mr. Fiorato, who was with the City Ballet for 56 years, was a figure of continuity surpassed only by George Balanchine, who founded it in 1948 with Mr. Fiorato's mentor, conductor Leon Barzin.

Mr. Fiorato held almost every job the company had to offer, starting as its first concertmaster in 1948. "I was concertmaster, librarian; I did everything except sweep the floors," he once told an interviewer. "It was wonderful to be there in those early days."

He was associate conductor, tour conductor, summertime conductor at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and principal conductor during the last 15 years of his career, from age 75. During off-seasons and leaves of absence, he was also chief conductor and musical director of the Boston Ballet, the Houston Ballet, and the National Ballet in Washington. He retired from the City Ballet in 2004.

Brisk with the baton, Mr. Fiorato was at the City Ballet podium thousands of times, including hundreds of performances of The Nutcracker, a production that established the work as an American Christmas tradition.

But he was always aware of the supporting role the conductor played in ballet. In ballet, the music matters, he said, but the dancers matter more.

Besides his stepson, Mr. Fiorato is survived by a son, James, and two other stepchildren, Stephanie Gilchrist Hunt and S. Christopher Scott, as well as six grandchildren. His wife of 35 years, Joelyn Scott Gilchrist Fiorato, died in 2007, and a daughter, Jan Fiorato, died in 1994.

- N.Y. Times News Service