Leading opera director Graham Vick dies from Covid aged 67

Opera world is plunged into mourning as leading director Graham Vick dies from Covid aged 67

  • World-renowned opera director, from Birkenhead, lost Covid battle on Saturday 
  • Maestro had produced operas around the world and was awarded a CBE in 2009
  • Tributes pouring in online describe the director as a ‘visionary’ and ‘innovator’   

World-renowned British opera director Graham Vick CBE has died from Covid-19 at the age of 67.

The founder of the Birmingham Opera Company passed away due to complications from the disease on Saturday, it is understood.

The opera company said in a statement: ‘We are devastated to announce that today July 17, 2021 Sir Graham Vick, Artistic Director, Birmingham Opera Company died of complications arising from Covid-19.’ 

The maestro, from Birkenhead, first studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester before embarking on an illustrious career which saw him direct at major companies around the world, from the Royal Opera in London to the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

One of his earliest productions was Gustav Holst’s Savitri for the Scottish Opera, where he became the director of productions in 1984 before founding the Birmingham Opera Company in 1987 and becoming its artistic director.  

World-renowned British opera director Graham Vick CBE has died following a battle with Covid-19

Vick pictured receiving his CBE from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace in 2009 while (right) the maestro poses with the honour afterwards 

A scene from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, directed by Vick at the Glyndebourne Opera House

After making his debut at the Royal Opera in 1989, he went on to direct a string of productions there, including Mitridate, re di Ponto, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, King Arthur, The Midsummer Marriage, The Merry Widow, Falstaff and Tamerlano.

He was also director at the Glyndebourne Opera festival from 1994 to 2000. 

Vick’s talents saw him gain notoriety around the world, with his most acclaimed productions including Der Ring des Nibelungen at Lisbon and Palermo, Tristan und Isolde at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Otello at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

He was made a CBE in 2009 for his contribution to opera and was later awarded Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2016.

Other honours included the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Honorary Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham and International Chair of Opera at the RNCM.     

Tributes have been pouring in for Vick since his passing was announced on social media last night. 

Dame Sarah Connolly said: ‘Covid-19 has claimed one of the greatest opera – theatre directors of our time. 

‘A great galvaniser, innovator and he lived life to the full. It’s hopeless finding any meaning to how someone dies – I feel outraged and I don’t really know why. Graham Vick you rock.’ 

Scottish Opera added: ‘We are deeply saddened by the death of Sir Graham Vick… Graham had a renowned international career and leaves a legacy of many important international productions.

Salome Jicia as Sifare and Albina Shagimuratova as Aspasia in the Royal Opera’s production of Mitridate, re di Ponto – directed by the late Graham Vick in 2017

Vick was described by fans as a ‘visionary’ and an ‘innovator’ and was praised for bringing opera to a new audience 

Emoke Barath as Hipermestra and Raffaele Pe as Linceo in a production of Francesco Cavalli’s Hipermestra, directed by Vick at the Glyndebourne Opera House

Michael Spyres as Mitridate in Mitridate, re di Ponto, directed by Vick at the Royal Opera in London

‘He is remembered fondly by us for his warmth and kindness towards his fellow artists and for the extraordinary artistic legacy he leaves behind. 

‘Our thoughts are with his partner Ron and his many friends, who will be mourning him as we are.’

The Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) tweeted: ‘Speechless at the news that opera hero and genius Graham Vick CBE has died. 

‘We are so proud to have presented him RPS Honorary Membership in 2016 for his work putting communities at the heart of sensational opera. We must all strive to follow his example and continue his mission.’  

The society gave Vick the RPS Award as recently as 2019 for his Lady Macbeth production at the Birmingham Opera Company. 

Meanwhile fans online praised Vick for bringing in a new audience to opera. 

One wrote: ‘Such a great man and the things he did in Birmingham in opening our art form up to people who would never normally see or be involved in it was the work of a visionary master.’

Another said: ‘He was a life force. I always set aside hours to speak to him. 

‘Birmingham and what he did was so so special. All he did was special – and he made other people special… My sincere condolences to his family and friends.’ 

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