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Due to the ongoing effects of closure at the Royal Opera House, information about artists is only updated periodically during this time. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

John Schlesinger



English director John Schlesinger (1926–2003) made his Royal Opera debut in 1980 directing Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and returned in 1984 to direct Der Rosenkavalier.

Schlesinger was born in London. He made his first film, Horror, in 1946. He served his national service with the Royal Engineers before going on to study English at Balliol College, Oxford, during which time he acted and made the films Black Legend and The Starfish. During the 1950s he acted in film and on stage and directed for the BBC. He went on to focus on film direction, with works including A Kind of Loving, Billy Liar, Darling, Far from the Madding Crowd, Midnight Cowboy (winner of the Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay), Sunday Bloody Sunday, Marathon Man and Madame Sousatzka. His films for television included An Englishman Abroad, A Question of Attribution and Cold Comfort Farm. Theatre credits included Timon of Athens and Days in the Trees for Royal Shakespeare Company and Heartbreak House, Julius Caesar and True West for the National Theatre. Work in opera included Un ballo in maschera for the Salzburg Festival and Peter Grimes for La Scala, Milan, and Los Angeles Opera.

Schlesinger was made a CBE in 1970 and a fellow of BAFTA in 1995. Further awards included the Hamburg Shakespeare Prize in 1981 and the Hollywood Film Festival Award for Outstanding Achievement in Directing in 1999.

News and features

Why did Schlesinger’s production of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann hog the headlines?

28 November 2016
Why did Schlesinger’s production of Offenbach’s <em>Les Contes d’Hoffmann</em> hog the headlines?

Sex scenes, scandal and sensational headlines: the ROH Collections team delve into the archives to uncover the buzz around this iconic production, 36 years on from its premiere.

Bringing a classic into focus: The challenges of reviving Les Contes d’Hoffmann

21 November 2016
Bringing a classic into focus: The challenges of reviving <em>Les Contes d’Hoffmann</em>

With gigantic sets and rail-upon-rail of luxurious costumes, John Schlesinger’s sumptuous production is one of the toughest to stage in the repertory.

Watch: Why Les Contes d'Hoffmann is 'the perfect vehicle for cinema’

16 November 2016
Watch: Why <em>Les Contes d'Hoffmann</em> is 'the perfect vehicle for cinema’

How director John Schlesinger's background in film influenced his hyper-detailed production of Offenbach's opera.