Death of international opera designer, 87

Death of international opera designer, 87


norman lebrecht

December 30, 2015

Peter Rice, opera and stage designer


peter rice stage design

Papageno from The Magic Flute (1975), designed by Peter Rice


The distinguished stage and opera designer Peter Rice died on 24 December at the age of 87. Having first trained as a painter, his first opera production was in 1952, when he designed Seraglio for Sadler’s Wells, launching an astonishingly long and varied career during which he designed for operas, ballets, plays and musicals in the West End and more widely across Britain, in Europe, America, Australia and the Far East. Over nearly sixty years he worked with many of the greatest stage performers and directors: he was still working for Opera Holland Park (for whom he designed well over a dozen productions after 2000) when he was well into his eighties.


His work was always graceful and elegant, as was he – one of the most gentle, erudite, modest and generous of people. With a twinkle in his eye, and always a kind word for everyone, his sketch book and pencil were never far from his hand. His eye for detail was astonishing – walking down the street he would suddenly vanish into a little shop, emerging a few moments later with another piece of fabric or an object that he had spotted which would find its way into the current production. With an ability to create something vivid and memorable from almost nothing, he was the only production designer I have ever worked with who never once went over budget. He was one of the most creative people you could ever meet, and always a joy to work with. But much more than that, he was the one of the warmest and kindest people you could ever hope to encounter.


Robert King


  • Michael Volpe says:

    We are all immensely sad at Peter’s death. He was wonderfully elegant, lavishly generous and a warm , gentle man and of course, immensely talented. I learned a great deal from Peter over twenty odd years and will miss him. We will have a commemorative piece in our 2016 OHP magazine this summer to remember his work.

  • Bobby Jeffrey says:

    I had the pleasure of taking part in many of Peters the productions he designed at Holland Park, he was artistically economical. I sometimes would say, wasn’t that blue desk in Figaro a couple of years back? With a few minor alterations!
    A delightful man.

  • Robert King says:

    You can see a brief TV piece featuring one of Peter’s recent projects – eccentric and wonderfully whimsical – at

  • Nick says:

    Peter Rice was a favourite designer at Scottish Opera in the 1960s and 70s. Amongst his productions were Falstaff with Geraint Evans, Ariande with Janet Baker and Helga Dernesch, Faust, Seraglio, Boheme with George Shirley, a whimsical Don Pasquale with Michael Langdon, Faust, Tosca and Boccanegra. He was a warm, kindly and generous man.

  • Colin Morris says:

    Peter created wonderful sets for Barber at Castleward in 1999 – they very detailed, very Spanish and highly practical. He was a charming and self-effacing man too.