The Royal Opera is deeply saddened to hear the news of the death of Sir Charles Mackerras, who died on Wednesday 14 July 2010.

Sir Charles Mackerras. Photograph: Clive Barda Antonio Pappano, Music Director, The Royal Opera:

“Charlie Mackerras’s impact on the development of musical performance practice over the last 60 years has been enormous. He was a force of nature, a true man of the theatre, who grappled with how to honour a composer’s intentions with the utmost rhythmic flair, drama and enthusiasm. His performances were always so full of life it is almost impossible to imagine he is no longer. A true friend of the Royal Opera House, he is irreplaceable; we will miss him terribly. Our sincere condolences to Judy and the rest of his family.”

Elaine Padmore, Director of Opera, The Royal Opera:

He was a very dear friend of the Royal Opera House and clearly loved his times with us. It was a great pleasure that he chose to spend his 80th birthday here at the Royal Opera House. We brought on a cake and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ on stage with the audience and had a splendid time with him, the audience and the Company together. Much as he was a great symphonic conductor, he was a man who loved opera houses. It was very apt that the last opera he conducted with us was one of his great favourites, Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, which we’d programmed at his request. We had two further seasons planned for him. Alas those are not to be, but the wonderful memories of his insightful performances of his beloved Janáček are the last we will have.”


Sir Charles Mackerras made his Royal Opera debut conducting Shostakovich’s Katerina Ismailova in 1964, having first conducted the Ballet Company at Covent Garden in 1955. During his long career at Covent Garden, he conducted over 30 operas for The Royal Opera. He celebrated his 80th birthday on 17 November 2005 at the Royal Opera House conducting the first in a run of nine performances of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera.

Most recently, he conducted The Bartered Bride, Orlando, Katya Kabanova, Le nozze di Figaro, and Don Giovanni for The Royal Opera. His last performances with The Royal Opera were The Cunning Little Vixen in March 2010.


Pineapple Poll 13 Mar
(Sadler’s Wells)

Pineapple Poll 21 Aug
(Sadler’s Wells)

Pineapple Poll 27 Feb
(Sadler’s Wells)

The Lady and the Fool 27 Feb
(Sadler’s Wells)

The Lady and the Fool 9 June
(Sadler’s Wells)

Katerina Ismailova 8, 14, 16 Dec

Turandot 6, 11, 14, 19, 22, 24 Jan/ 20, 24, 28 May

Turandot 6, 9, 12, 14 Jan/ 24 Feb/ 6 Mar
Carmen 11, 16, 19, 24, 27 May/ 1, 5, 9 June

Carmen 3, 7, 15, 19, 23, 28 Feb/ 5, 8 Mar
Tosca 22, 30 Mar/ 2, 5, 11, 15 Apr
Così fan tutte 8, 12, 16, 18 July

Aida 29 May/ 4, 10, 14, 17, 20 June
Così fan tutte 4, 6, 9, 14, 17, 20 Jan
Simon Boccanegra 30 Apr/ 6, 10, 14, 20, 22, 26 May

Le Coq D’Or 12, 16, 22, 27, 30 Dec/ 2 Jan

Tosca 26, 28 May/ 1, 4, 9, 16 June

Turandot 6, 9, 12, 15 Jan/ 3, 12, 18 Feb
Orfeo ed Euridice 9, 13, 16, 19, 21 July

Billy Budd 30 Dec/ 3, 5, 11, 17 Jan

Jenůfa 13, 20, 25, 29 Apr/ 2 May
Orfeo ed Euridice 24, 27, 30 May/ 3, 6, 9 June

Aida 23, 27, 31 March/ 3, 6, 9, 12, 17 April
Il trovatore 23, 26, 30 May/ 2, 6, 11 June

A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2, 4, 11, 15, 19 Jan
Otello (Verdi) 1, 4, 10, 13, 17, 20, 24 May
Jenůfa 22, 25, 28 May/ 7, 10 June
Tosca 8, 12, 16, 18 Nov
Faust 5, 7, 10, 13 Dec

Jenůfa 8, 11, 14, 17 June

1978/ 79
Un ballo in maschera 21, 27, 29 Dec/ 3, 6 Jan

Alceste 26 Nov/ 1, 4, 9, 12, 15 Dec

Semele 25, 29 Nov/ 1, 4, 7, 11, 14 Dec

Tosca 18, 22, 26, 29 Sept

Semele 22, 28, 30 Dec/ 3, 7 Jan

Roméo et Juliette 28 Oct/ 1, 4, 9, 12, 15, 17 Nov

The Greek Passion 25, 27, 29 Apr/ 3, 5, 8 May
Roméo et Juliette 18, 21, 26 Feb / 1, 6, 9 March

The Bartered Bride 7, 10, 12, 20 Nov 2001
Die Entführung aus dem Serail 30 May / 2, 4, 7, 9 June

Don Giovanni 18, 20, 23, 28 Feb

Rusalka in concert 14, 17 July
Semele 25, 28 June / 2, 5, 8, 11 July

The Greek Passion 15, 19, 21, 23, 25 Sept / 1 Oct
Der Rosenkavalier 13, 19, 22, 24, 27, 30 Apr

Un ballo in maschera 17, 21, 25, 29 Nov / 3, 7, 10, 13, 16 Dec
Die Zauberflöte 11, 14, 16, 21, 23, 26, 28 Feb/ 3, 4 Mar

The Bartered Bride 6, 9, 12, 14, 17, 20 Jan

Katya Kabanova 19, 22, 15, 28 June / 2, 5 July
Orlando 26 Feb / 1, 3, 7, 9, 13 Mar

Don Giovanni 8, 10, 12, 15, 18 Sept
Le nozze di Figaro 24, 30 June/ 2, 5, 10, 12, 16 July

The Cunning Little Vixen 19, 22, 25, 29 Mar / 1 Apr


Born in 1925 of Australian parents in America, Sir Charles Mackerras studied in Sydney and Prague and made his debut as an opera conductor at Sadler’s Wells. He was First Conductor of the Hamburg Opera (1966-69) and Musical Director of both Sadler’s Wells (later English National Opera) (1970-77), and of Welsh National Opera (1987-92), where his notable Janáček productions, amongst many others, were acclaimed. From 1982-85 Sir Charles was Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and also conducted the opening public concert at the Sydney Opera House. Sir Charles is Conductor Laureate of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Conductor Emeritus of the OAE, Conductor Laureate of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Conductor Emeritus of the Welsh National Opera and Principal Guest Conductor Emeritus of the San Francisco Opera. A specialist in Czech repertory, Sir Charles was Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from 1997 - 2003, following his life-long association with both the Orchestra and many aspects of Czech musical life.

Sir Charles had undertaken much research into performance practice of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. One of the highlights of the 1991 season was the re-opening of the Estates Theatre in Prague, scene of the original premiere of Don Giovanni. Sir Charles conducted a new production of that opera to mark the bi-centenary of Mozart’s death. He recorded all Mozart’s Symphonies and Serenades with the Prague Chamber Orchestra. With the Scottish Chamber Orchestra he recorded seven Mozart operas, most recently La Clemenza di Tito following a performance at the 2005 Edinburgh International Festival. [2002 marked Sir Charles’ 50th year with the Edinburgh Festival, in which he conducted Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, Handel’s Jeptha and Mozart’s Gran Partita.] He was recently named Honorary President of the Edinburgh International Festival Society.

His vast discography includes an award-winning cycle of Janáček operas with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Britten’s Gloriana with WNO [awarded ‘Gramophone’ magazine’s Best Opera Recording for 1994] and Dvorak’s Rusalka with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra [awarded ‘Gramophone’ magazine’s ‘Best Opera Recording’ and ‘Best Recording of the Year’, the ‘Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik’, ‘Prix Caecilia’ and ‘Edison Award’ for 1999]. Notable are his recordings with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra of Beethoven’s and Mahler’s symphonies and Brahms’ four symphonies with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Sir Charles and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra have recorded eight Mozart concertos with Alfred Brendel. Sir Charles has recorded much Czech music with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, including Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, Smetana’s Ma Vlast, Martinu’s Field Mass and Double Concerto and Janáček’s Katya Kabanova, Sarka and the Glagolitic Mass all for Supraphon. For Chandos he has recorded The Magic Flute, The Makropolous Case, Cosi fan tutte and Hansel and Gretel, which won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. He has recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies for Hyperion Records.

Sir Charles made his debut with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1964, where he has since conducted over 30 operas, including Un ballo in maschera which celebrated his 50th anniversary and 80th birthday in 2005. He also recently conducted Katya Kabanova there, an opera that he first introduced London audiences to in 1951 at the Sadler’s Wells theatre; the first performance of a Janáček opera in the United Kingdom. In addition to his many appearances with the San Francisco Opera, he has a long association with the Metropolitan Opera, New York. He made his debut at the Salzburg Festival, with the Vienna Philharmonic, conducting Le nozze di Figaro in 1998, and returned to Salzburg to conduct the orchestra in a programme of Schubert and Mozart in 2005. He made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 2004, in which year he also made his debut at the National Theatre Prague, conducting Janáček’s Vylety pana broucka (The Excursions of Mr Broucek).

In the 2009/10 season he conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. For English National Opera he conducted The Turn of the Screw, for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, he conducted The Cunning Little Vixen and for Glyndebourne Festival Opera he conducted Cosi fan tutte.

Sir Charles received a CBE in 1974 and was knighted in 1979. He was honoured with the Medal of Merit from the Czech Republic in 1996, made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1997 and made a Companion of Honour in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours. In May 2005 he was presented with the Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal and in November 2005 was the first recipient of the Queen’s Medal for Music. He was awarded a DMus (Hon) of the Universities of Hull, York, Nottingham, Griffith (Australia), Oxford, Napier, Melbourne, Sydney, the Janáček Academy of Music (Brno) and the Prague Academy of Music. Sir Charles was also President of Trinity College of Music.


Principal Oboist, Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Oboist, Sadler’s Wells Opera Orchestra

Won British Council scholarship to study conducting with Vaclav Talich in Prague

Staff conductor, Sadler’s Wells Opera (first opera Die Fledermaus, October 1948)

Conducted UK premiere of Janacek’s opera, Kat’a Kabanova at Sadler’s Wells Opera

Pineapple Poll – his arrangement of G & S for ballet choreographed by John Cranko (Sadler’s Wells); also made his first recording (Suite from Pineapple Poll)

Principal Conductor, BBC Concert Orchestra

Freelance conductor, orchestras in Britain, European Continent, USA, Australia

Debut at Covent Garden, with the Ballet Company – conducting The Lady and the Fool (for which he had arranged the music)

First worked with Philharmonia Orchestra (recording The Lady and the Fool)

1964 (Dec)
Debut with The Royal Opera (Katerina Ismailova)

First Conductor, Hamburg State Opera

Musical Director, Sadler’s Wells Opera (later, English National Opera)

Chief Guest Conductor, BBC Symphony Orchestra

Chief Conductor, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Musical Director, Welsh National Opera

Conductor Emeritus, Welsh National Opera

Principal Guest Conductor, Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Conductor Laureate, Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Principal Guest Conductor, San Francisco Opera

Conductor Emeritus, San Francisco Opera

Principal Guest Conductor, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Principal Guest Conductor, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

Music Director, Orchestra of St Luke’s, New York

Music Director Emeritus, Orchestra of St Luke’s, NY

Principal Guest Conductor, Philharmonia Orchestra


Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society (May)

The Queen’s Medal for Music (first recipient of this new annual award, to be presented at a private audience with HMQ and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music, on 22 November – St Cecilia’s Day

Companion of Honour (CH)

Companion of Order of Australia (AC)

Medal of Merit, Czech Republic



Honorary Fellow of:
Royal Academy of Music (1969)
Royal College of Music (1987)
Royal Northern College of Music (1999)
Trinity College of Music (1999)
Saint Peter’s College, Oxford (1999)
Cardiff University (2003)

DMus (Hon) - Honorary Doctor of Music – at the Universities of:
Hull (1990), Nottingham (1991), Brno (Czech Republic, 1994), York (1994), Griffith (Brisbane, 1994), Oxford (1997), Prague Academy of Music (1999), Napier (2000), Melbourne (2003), Sydney (2003), Janacek Academy of Music, Brno (2004), London (2005)


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