Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Royal Opera House tribute to Sir Colin Davis

Tonight the first performance this season of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte will be dedicated to the memory of Sir Colin Davis. He was very closely associated with this opera, and indeed with this production. Poignantly, it was before a performance in 2011 that he collapsed with a heart condition. No doubt an announcement will be made, but even in the unlikely event it isn't, there won't be a soul in the house who won't be remembering him.

The Royal Opera House has released an extensive tribute. Many people at the ROH now and in the past worked with the conductor and knew him well, so the tributes are personal and sincere, much more moving than the normal bland press obits.

Antonio Pappano says "His passing represents an end of an era, where grit, toil, vision and energy  were the defining elements of a leading international opera house.. He was a giant. A very sad moment for British music".  Kaspar Holten says ".his influence over the this company is profound and special".

Sir Colin's first appearances in Covent Garden were with the Royal Ballet, where he conducted from 1960.  Dame Monica Mason, former Director of the Royal Ballet, says "I first met Colin Davis when he conducted the opening performances of The Rite of Spring in 1962.  I was the Chosen Maiden and he was the most wonderfully encouraging conductor..Fifty years ago he was a young man of 35, and he went on to make an enormous international career...   I am very sad to think I won't see him in the Royal Opera House again".

Colin Davis's first performance at the Royal Opera House was conducting Le nozze de Figaro in 1965. Sir John Tooley, who was General Administrator from 1970 to 1988 remembers "He arrived as Music Director of the Royal Opera House in 1971 with the reputation of being something of a firebrand. There was little evidence of that, but Colin knew what he wanted orchestral musicians and singers to give in terms of a performance...... Colin was no slouch, and took on a repertory at ROH much of which was not familar to him at the time but which he wanted to explore". 

"Colin's early days as Music Director at ROH were not easy for him,  as they had not been for his predecessor. There were some doubts that he could deliver and that he could begin to match some of the world's greatest conductors...the doubters were proved wrong". ...One of his biggest challenges was Der Ring des Nibelungen from 1973 to 1976, in which he collaborated with Götz Friedrich. Not an easy relationship, but one which nevertheless flourished .... as I look back over Colin's life and particularly his 15 years at the ROH, he seemed to be on a journey through music, constantly re-examining and developing his intepretations"

David Syrus, Head of Music for the ROH adds "On the day Colin started as Musical Director here I started as a fledgling ,répétiteur. He was my first and most stimulating professional teacher - singing bel canto in every language, using text as the driving force (in the first Freidrich Ring, Götz talked music, Colin text!), discovering the rhetoric in accompanied recitative (not to mention the first two chords of the Eroica!)....the modesty and humanity of the man irradiated his music"

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