English conductor Sir Colin Davis (1927–2013) was Music Director of The Royal Opera 1971–86. During his long career his other positions included Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra 1967–71 and Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra 1995–2006.
Davis was born in Weybridge, Surrey, and studied clarinet at the Royal College of Music. His first conducting post was with the BBC Scottish Orchestra in 1957. He was Music Director of Sadler’s Wells Opera (later English National Opera) 1961–5. His made his Royal Ballet debut 1960 with La Valse and his Royal Opera debut in 1965 with Le nozze di Figaro. Following Royal Opera performances of Les Troyens (1969), The Midsummer Marriage (1968) and The Knot Garden (1970), he succeeded Georg Solti as Music Director of The Royal Opera in 1971. His many works with the Company included Götz Friedrich’s production of Der Ring des Nibelungen (1973–1976) and the three-act Lulu in 1981, as well as a diverse repertory including operas by Berlioz, Mozart, Verdi and Zemlinsky. He left Covent Garden in 1985 but returned regularly; his final performances with the Company were of Così fan tutte in 2012.
Davis’s later positions included Music Director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra 1983–92, Principal Guest Conductor of the New York Philharmonic 1998–2003 and President of the LSO 2007–13, the final stage of his hugely significant relationship with the orchestra. Davis is especially remembered for his interpretations of Mozart, Berlioz and Tippett, but his broader contributions to musical life – and particularly to the musical life of the Royal Opera House – was great.
News and features
May sees releases from Pavarotti, Sir Colin Davis and Ian Bostridge.
Royal Opera House Head of Music pays tribute to Colin Davis, his 'most stimulating professional teacher'.
Tributes to the former Music Director of The Royal Opera from Dame Monica Mason, Sir John Tooley and others.