The Death of Sir Charles Mackerras

Photo: Z Chrapek

All at Glyndebourne are very sad to hear of the death of Sir Charles Mackerras, who was conducting Così fan tutte during the Festival only last month. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. 

In his final interview with James Whitbourn, Sir Charles speaks about his career, conducting Mozart and in particular Così fan tutte.

Sir Charles conducted five Festival operas at Glyndebourne, beginning with Falstaff in 1990. This was followed by Le nozze di Figaro (1997), Rodelinda (1999), Die Zauberflöte (2005) and Così fan tutte (2010).

David Pickard, Glyndebourne’s General Director, said:

“Everyone at Glyndebourne is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Sir Charles Mackerras who conducted his final performances here last month, his final conducting appearance being the performance on 12 June. Some of my earliest operatic memories are of Sir Charles conducting at English National Opera when he was Music Director from 1968 to 1976, and it was a privilege to work with him professionally, both with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and here at Glyndebourne.

"He was a remarkable musician, held in the greatest respect by his colleagues, and the breadth of his contribution to this country’s musical life was immense.

"We shall all cherish his recent performances of Così fan tutte – a wonderful Mozartian who will be sorely missed.”

Sir George Christie said:

"Sir Charles Mackerras was a beacon in the firmament of star conductors. The passion he brought to his performances – which he tempered with scholarly research - combined with his devotion to and belief in the composers whose works were entrusted to him and his baton set him apart from the others. He never imposed himself between the audience and the composer and this in turn commanded total devotion to and belief in him.

"He embraced a huge spectrum of the repertory, but it was his performances of Handel, Mozart and Janácek which stick most adhesively in my memory…

He was an enchanting man."

Tonight’s performance of Don Giovanni, conducted by Glyndebourne’s Music Director Vladimir Jurowski with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, will be dedicated to Sir Charles’s memory.

Sir Charles made his debut with Sadler’s Wells Opera in 1948 and ROH in 1964, where he subsequently conducted 34 operas, most recently The Cunning Little Vixen. He worked with ENO, most recently conducting The Turn of the Screw, which he had last conducted in London in 1956 sharing the podium with Britten; WNO, and the opera houses of Hamburg, Paris, Vienna, Prague and Sydney, and with the Czech, Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras, the SCO and the OAE. Recordings include an award-winning cycle of Janáček operas with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Mozart’s Symphonies and Serenades (Prague Chamber Orchestra); and seven Mozart operas (SCO). Past appointments include Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia up until his death.

He studied at the Sydney Conservatorium and in Prague. He was awarded a CBE in 1974, knighted in 1979, made a Companion of Honour in 2003, and received the first Queen’s Medal for Music and the Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal in 2005. He was a Companion of the Order of Australia.

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