Director Graham Vick, Who Opened the Doors of Opera, has died at the age of 67


LONDON — British opera director Graham Vick, who worked for prestigious houses such as the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala, but also sought to expand the appeal of opera by performing works in abandoned rock clubs and old factories, and bringing more diversity to the cast, died Saturday. London. He was 67 years old.

The reason was complications from Covid-19, Birmingham Opera Companyhe said he established in a newsletter.

Mr Vick spent most of the coronavirus pandemic in Crete, Greece, and returned to the UK in June to attend rehearsals for a Birmingham Opera production. Wagner’s “Das Rhinegold” His manager, Jonathan Groves, said in a phone call.

Mr. Vick was artistic director at the company, which he saw as a means to bring opera to everyone. His English-language productions there often included amateur performers. And he insisted on keeping ticket prices low so everyone could attend, and hiring singers who reflected the ethnic diversity of Birmingham, England’s second largest city. HImmersive production of Verdi’s “Otello” In 2009, he played Ronald Samm, the first Black tenor to sing the lead in a professional production in the UK.

The company never held VIP receptions because Mr. Vick believed that no audience member should be seen as superior to any other.

You don’t need to be educated to be impressed, impressed and excited by the opera. Speech at the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards in 2016. “You just have to experience it first hand, nothing will stand in your way.”

Opera producers “must remove barriers and make connections that will unleash its power for all,” he added.

Oliver Mears, opera director of the Royal Opera House, said in a statement He said Mr. Vick was “a true innovator in the way he integrates community work into our art form.”

“Many people from extremely diverse backgrounds love opera and experienced it for the first time through his work,” he said.

Graham Vick was born on 30 December 1953 in Birkenhead, near Liverpool. His father, Arnold, worked in a clothing store, and his mother, Muriel (Hynes) Vick, worked in the personnel department of a factory. His love of the stage blossomed when he saw a 5-year-old production of “Peter Pan”.

“It was a complete road moment to Damascus” He told The Times of London in 2014. “Everything was there – flight through the window to another world, to a larger world.”

Opera gave him similar opportunities to “fly, fly, breathe and scream.”

Mr. Vick studied to be a conductor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England. But he turned to directing and created his first production at the age of 22. Two years later he directed a production of Gustav Holst’s “Savitri” for Scottish Opera and soon became production director.

With Scottish Opera, he quickly demonstrated his desire to bring opera to local communities. he caused Opera-Go-Roundis an undertaking in which a small group travels to remote parts of Scotland’s Highlands and islands, often performing only to piano accompaniment. He also brought opera singers to the factories to perform during their lunch breaks.

Some productions received mixed and even harsh reviews. “Stalin was right,” wrote Edward Rothstein. at The Times When reviewing “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” in 1994, she described Mr. Vick’s production as “vulgar, primitive, vulgar,” just as Stalin did in Shostakovich’s original. However, they were praised just as often.

Despite Mr. Vick’s success in traditional opera houses, he sometimes criticized them. “They’re huge, glamorous, gorgeous, seductive institutions, but also a dangerous black hole where great art can easily turn into self-serving products.” He told the BBC in 2012.

Mr Vick’s work at the Birmingham Opera Company, which he founded in 1987, was celebrated in England for his bold vision. Another “Falstaff”, his first production, was staged at a recreation center in the city; other productions took place in a burned-out ballroom above a shopping mall and in an abandoned warehouse.

After rehearsing a Rossini opera in Pesaro, Italy in the 1990s, Mr. Vick decided to use amateurs. One day it was very hot and stuffy, reminded in 2003 lectureHe said that he was shocked to see that the theater opened its doors to the street and that a group of young people left and watched football matches.

“We decided to involve community members in our work to achieve this kind of constituency in Birmingham,” he said. He added that those who buy tickets should see their own reflections on stage and in the production team.

Mr Vick continued to return to Birmingham because only there, he said, “in the wonderful participation of the audience and the performers” he felt whole.

The company has been praised not only for its inclusivity. “Otello”, staged in 2009, “puts you in and into your heart” Rian Evans wrote in The Guardian. And Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times described Mr. Vick’s 2012 production of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Mittwoch aus Licht” “otherworldly(It featured string instruments performing in helicopters and a camel, and was part of Britain’s celebrations of the 2012 Olympic Games.)

“If opera aims to change your perception of what is possible and worthwhile, imagining an impossible dream and all that, then this is clearly a spiritually uplifting way to do it,” said Mr Swed.

Vick, who died in a hospital, was survived by his partner, choreographer Ron Howell, and his older brother, Hedley.

in his speech Awards of the Royal Philharmonic SocietyMr. Vick urged those in the opera world to “get out of our ghetto” and follow the example of Birmingham in trying to reflect the society in which a company exists.

He said people should “embrace the future and help build a world we want to live in”, “not to hide playing the violin while Rome burns.”


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