Vinicio Cheli studied set and light designing at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. Between 1974 and 1989 he worked at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino festival and the Piccolo Teatro of Milan where he became the lighting assistant for Giorgio Strehler before assuming responsibility for entire productions.
Since 1989 he has worked on opera productions including operas of Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Rossini, Strauss, as well as The Tales of Hoffmann, From the House of the Dead, Fidelio, Norma, Carmen, Erwartung, Turandot, Lucrezia Borgia, Lucia di Lammermoor, Pelléas et Mélisande, Manon, Madama Butterfly, Le Roi de Lahore, L’Elisir d’Amore, Faust, Mireille, Medea, L’Heure espagnole, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges and Cavalleria Rusticana. He has also worked on plays and ballets including La Bayadère, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty.
He collaborated with such directors as Nikolaus Lehnhoff, Pier Luigi Pizzi, Luca Ronconi, Werner Herzog, Hugo de Ana, Klaus Michael Grüber, Franco Zeffirelli, Luc Bondy, Andrei Konchalovsky and Giancarlo del Monaco at venues including the Rossini Opera Festival, the Salzburg Festival, the Festival Baroque in Versailles, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, La Fenice, the Opéra Bastille, the National Theatre of Prague, the Opéra de Monte Carlo, the Grand Théâtre de Genève, the Opéra Garnier, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the Arena di Verona, the New National Theatre in Tokyo, the Teatro Real, the Metropolitan Opera, the Teatro Verdi, the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, the Chorégies d’Orange and the Royal Opera House of Muscat. He has lectured in theatre lighting at the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan and at the Professional School of La Scala.