The British opera director Sir Graham Vick has died

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Born December 30, 1953; died July 17, 2021

Sir Graham Vick, who has died aged 67 (Photo: Groves Artists)
Sir Graham Vick, who has died aged 67 (Photo: Groves Artists)

Sir Graham Vick has died as a result of complications from Covid-19; he was 67. His productions were seen in all the great opera houses of the world, but his most lasting legacy will surely be the extraordinary work he did as Artistic Director of Birmingham Opera Company, which he founded in 1987.

Born in Birkenhead, Vick studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester making his debut as a producer with Scottish Opera aged 24 in Holst’s Sāvitri.

His work in the UK also took him to English National Opera (where his stagings included Madam Butterfly, Fidelio and Stephen Oliver’s Timon of Athens) and the Royal Opera (Berio's Un re in ascolto in 1989 and subsequently Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, King Arthur, The Midsummer Marriage, The Merry Widow, Falstaff, Tamerlano and Georg Friedrich Haas's Morgen und Abend (premiere).

Vick’s many other productions include Der Ring des Nibelungen (Lisbon and Palermo), Tristan und Isolde (Deutsche Oper Berlin), Boris GodunovWar and Peace and The Makropoulos Affair (Mariinsky Theatre), Lulu and Eugene Onegin (Glyndebourne), Macbeth and Otello (La Scala, Milan), Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Metropolitan Opera, New York), Parsifal and Le Roi Arthus (Paris Opéra), Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rome Opera) and Guillaume Tell (Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro).

With his Birmingham Opera Company, which had no fixed home and so sought out new and challenging venues, often in highly immersive productions, he directed La traviata (co-production with Arena di Verona), Ariadne Sells Out, Ulysses Comes Home, Fidelio, Curlew River (BBC Proms), Idomeneo, Otello (BBC Two, and the first production in the UK to feature a black tenor in the title role), Tippett’s The Ice Break, Khovanskygate: a National Enquiry and the premieres of Jonathan Dove’s Life is a Dream and Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht (London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad) and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (which won the 2019 RPS Award for Opera and Music Theatre).

Talking about his production of Fidelio, Vick said 'What our work is trying to do is not only involve and excite audiences, it's trying to take forward and experiment and push the boundaries of the art form itself - of how we might perform it, explore it, be excited by it.'

His pioneering, imaginative and fiercely original approach to opera set him apart and his work in the field of opera was recognised in the 2021 New Year's Honours with a Knighthood.

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