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Remembering Lee Blakeley (1971–2017)

The young British director, a regular revival director for The Royal Opera, has died suddenly.

By Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager)

7 August 2017 at 12.52pm | 7 Comments

Lee Blakeley was born in Yorkshire in 1971. He studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and at the University of Glasgow, graduating with the prize for directing. In his career he worked extensively as a director of opera, musical theatre and theatre, winning particular acclaim for his productions of works by Stephen Sondheim at Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris.

In the USA Lee worked regularly with Santa Fe Opera, his many popular productions there including Madame Butterfly, The Pearl Fishers, The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein and Rigoletto. Further productions in North America included Falstaff for Los Angeles Opera, The Tales of Hoffmann for Canadian Opera Company and the US premiere of Handel’s Richard the Lionheart, for Opera Theatre of St Louis.

His relationship with The Royal Opera began in January 2003, when he assisted director David McVicar in his new production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. Lee returned regularly to direct the revivals of this much-loved production, in June 2003, January 2005, January 2008 and February 2011.

He was just as closely involved in another highly successful McVicar production for The Royal Opera, of Gounod’s Faust. He again assisted David on the production’s premiere in June 2004, and returned as revival director in September 2004 and September 2011, and as associate director in September 2006.

Lee was a dedicated proponent of new work, both in the theatre and the opera house. As artistic director of Opera Theatre Europe he presented the European premiere of Tobias Picker’s opera Thérèse Raquin at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre in 2006, in addition to developing site-specific pieces for the Covent Garden Festival and ENO Studio.

Oliver Mears, The Royal Opera’s Director of Opera, paid the following tribute: ‘We were very saddened to hear of Lee’s sudden death. He worked across many productions here at the Royal Opera House, working particularly closely with David McVicar. His dedication to new writing and to developing contemporary operas was an important part of his work, and he presented the European premiere of Tobias Picker’s Thérèse Raquin in the Linbury Studio Theatre. He brought intelligence, fun and flair to the rehearsal room and he will be very much missed.’

By Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager)

7 August 2017 at 12.52pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged Lee Blakeley, obituary

This article has 7 comments

  1. Roy Tan responded on 8 August 2017 at 2:02pm Reply

    Photo credit Roy Tan

    • Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager) responded on 8 August 2017 at 3:41pm

      Hi Roy,
      Thanks for this and apologies for the missing credit. I've amended where the photo is stored in Flickr ( and it will pull through onto this page in a short while.
      All best,

    • Marco Anton responded on 10 August 2017 at 11:10pm

      How disrespectful! Someone has just died and all you care about is the photo credit. Have a quiet word with yourself.

    • Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager) responded on 11 August 2017 at 10:26am

      Hi Kevin and Marco,

      Thanks for your comments. That said, Roy Tan was absolutely right to flag we had omitted the credit to his work. Intellectual property is something we take very seriously and I'm grateful to Roy for letting us know about this error.

      All best,

  2. Natasha Jouhl responded on 9 August 2017 at 6:31am Reply

    Dear Rachel,
    Many thanks for your article on Lee Blakeley. I enjoyed every moment working with him on stage and he indeed was a great talent. He will be missed very much.

    All best,

    Natasha Jouhl

  3. Kevin responded on 10 August 2017 at 10:20pm Reply

    The poor man has just died and the first comment is about a missing photo credit???

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