Stunned opera world remembers Graham Vick

Stunned opera world remembers Graham Vick


norman lebrecht

July 18, 2021

First tributes to the influential opera director who has died of Covid:

Director David MacVicar: I’m so deeply saddened by the news of Graham Vick’s passing. I admired him so much and he was always a kind and generous colleague to me personally. Our industry and creative world is much less without him. But he leaves an incredible legacy of passionate commitment to our art form, especially in the groundbreaking work he created in Birmingham but also across the world, wherever opera is acknowledged to be vital and vitally important.

Conductor Graeme Jenkins: There are very few Opera Directors who knew their craft like Graham.

Director Keith Warner: There was no one like Graham. No one ever was, nor will be. He constantly moved the world and opera closer. On top of his prodigious technical ability as a director and his determination to liberate the art form from any bombast, it was his insight into the human condition within his work that was endlessly earth shattering. I first met him in 1980 and his commitment to making opera a way to explain the world, and his quest to explain opera to the world never wavered from then on. He was the best. I shall miss him and his brilliant work and will never forget him. Images and ideas from his productions are burnt indelibly on my imagination. I feel deep, deep sadness. I send my love and condolences to Ron.

Soprano Asmik Grigorian: Dearest Graham…..
I can not believe…. Rest in Peace my dearest Master!
Can not believe… Ron im so so sorry for your loss…

Contralto Dame Sarah Connolly: Covid 19 has claimed one of the greatest opera – theatre directors of our time. A great galvaniser, innovator and he lived life to the full. It’s hopeless finding any meaning to how someone dies – I feel outraged and I don’t really know why. Graham Vick you rock.

Matthew Shivlock, president San Francisco Opera: I am devastated to hear of Graham Vick’s passing today from Covid. He directed with courage, vision and a belief in the right of all to culture. My very first opera, aged 12, was at his groundbreaking Birmingham Opera Company and his unwavering commitment to immersive art been a North Star for me ever since.

Translator Amando Holden: Graham was such a specially intuitive musician, but also one of the few truly visionary geniuses of opera.

I’m writing this because without Graham I’d not be me. His support when I was translating Falstaff for his Birmingham company in 1987 was key, and he encouraged, inspired and enabled me through several more Birmingham shows. He so loved that milieu of close work, and understood both deeply serious and ironically comic in every context – who but Graham would have subtitled Il dissoluto punito, or Don Giovanni, as `He had it coming’?!
Graham was director of productions at Scottish Opera in the 80s. The last Glasgow performance of David McVicar’s beautiful new Falstaff production took place yesterday, performed in that 1987 translation which ends with the Graham-inspired – `Life is a burst of laughter’, for Tutto nel mondo è burla. it’s very upsetting to try to accept that Graham has gone on his way.

Orchestra CEO Andrew Bennett: Graham Vick was one of the greatest influences on my life and work. Now, just as Covid seemed to be on the back foot, the pandemic got personal for me. For six years in the 90s with (the then) City of Birmingham Touring Opera I had the privilege to work alongside Graham. He crammed too many projects into his schedule, he could never suffer fools gladly, he rarely compromised. But what a vision, what depth of knowledge, what craft, what inspiration, what imagination, what love for opera! He seemed unstoppable, constantly mining his creativity and sharing it with generosity. He talked about the need to connect anyone with opera, and then walked the walk. He transformed lives. My heart goes out to Ron, their friends across the world, and to my many friends here whose eyes and ears were opened by Graham. His stunning work and the twinkle in his eye will never be forgotten.

Deutsche Oper Berlin: We mourn the loss of a great artist and revered colleague.

La Scala: Il Teatro alla Scala ricorda Graham Vick con affetto e immensa.

Critic Alex Ross: His production of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch in Birmingham was absolutely one of the most astounding things I’ve ever seen.


  • Bostin'Symph says:

    I went to Covent Garden and saw an amazing Meistersinger directed by Graham Vick. I loved his Glyndebourne Onegin which I saw on the TV. I saw other productions by this amazing guy from around the world, also on the telly. And then he came to my home town of Birmingham and created memorable production after memorable production with community actors and choirs mixing with professional opera singers and musicians. The productions were always slick and of a very high standard. There was no compromise.

    I will remember him corralling us audience members as we moved around a disused factory or a circus big top or whatever extraordinary venue he’d found to match the occasion. There was no sitting in Wozzeck, Candide, Idomeneo or Fidelio, we’d follow the action around from scene to scene.

    And then there he was again on the No. 9 bus going home after the show, just looking like an ordinary guy: this giant of the stage, this drama genius, this opera magician.

  • Ernest says:

    Graham’s Stiffelio staged in the round at the Verdi festival in Parma brought the opera close to every audience member. We were transported into the work as it was happening around us. We were no longer passive viewers. Visceral, gripping and unforgettable. He was a genius who left us too soon.

  • Philip Kraus says:

    I find David McVicar’s comment somewhat ironic. He is anything but kind to his colleagues. Worst experience with an opera director in my 25. Years as an opera singer. Graham Vick was a class act. David McVicar is not.

  • It’s simple says:

    It’s called get vaccinated-see what happens?

    • Jack_Ewing says:

      10,991 covid vaccine related deaths through July 9, 2021. You’re playing Russian roulette with your life. These are untested, experimental injections not approved by the FDA. They admit the jabs won’t prevent you from catching or transmitting covid, the only benefit is that they “claim” your symptoms won’t be as severe. Vick and thousands of others paid with their lives. How stupid do you have to be to fall for this scam? When the survival rate for covid is 99,97%. The CDC admits that only 6% of covid deaths were caused by covid, the vast majority died of something else. Time to wake up.

      • A M Frank says:

        Comments like these are sickening and killing hundreds of thousands.

      • Saxon says:

        Bizarre comments from Jack Ewing. He seems to believe there is a vast conspiracy from the medical profession to murder people while only HE sees the truth (he no medical training, but hey, is has spent an evening on the internet, and has a typewriter). Really, just bizarre.

        Points: 1. G.Vick had not yet got vaccinated. 2. The vaccines are safe, and they have passed their clinical trials. 3. A small number of “Covid deaths” a really something else, but the numbers are small proportion of the numbers attributed to Covid and don’t substantively change the figures.

    • Donna Pasquale says:

      oh go away

  • Hilary says:

    and his bracing production of Tippett’s ‘The Ice Break’

  • Jack_Ewing says:

    No mention of Vick being unvaxxced so it’s obvious he took the injection but died of covid anyway. The mass media would not miss the opportunity to guilt trip the rest of us 24/7 by saying Vick died because he didn’t take the jab if that had been the case. All these mysterious deaths. Edward Berkeley, 5 active JetBlue pilots, 5 British Airways pilots etc. etc. RIP Graham Vick

    • Indeed says:

      Don’t forget the hundreds of thousands who died of COVID before their were any vaccines, as the virus spread unchecked.

    • Don Ciccio says:

      If you bothered to read the comments on the post that announced his death, there is a link to a La Repubblica article that says that he returned to England in order to get vaccinated. Ergo, he was not vaxxed. Or, if he managed to do so, not enough time passed to get his antibodies working.

      RIP, Mr. Vick. I will never forget the two Met stagings that I had the privilege to see: Moses und Aron and especially Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.

      • Jack_Ewing says:

        Yes he was vaxxed. That’s why there’s no mention of vaccines in the articles about his death. He was only 67. So far 10,991 covid vaccine related deaths in the US alone through July 9, 2021. And only 1 to 10% gets reported. You’re playing Russian roulette with your life. How many more deaths until you accept that these are untested, experimental injections not approved by the FDA? They admit the jabs won’t prevent you from catching or transmitting covid, the only benefit is that they “claim” your symptoms won’t be as severe. How stupid do you have to be to fall for this scam? When the survival rate for covid is 99,97%? The CDC admits that only 6% of covid deaths were caused by covid, the vast majority died of something else. You’ve been played.

    • Rachel Guest says:

      Graham was my cousin, please don’t speculate when you don’t know the facts

  • Nick2 says:

    I had the enormous pleasure of knowing him at the start of his career when he worked as a production assistant at Scottish Opera before his first major production of Savitri with Dame Janet Baker. His commitment to the art form was total. He loved the work he was doing with schools and occasionally at factories. He was creating something very special that I am sure those who attended remembered for a very long time.

  • John pascoe says:

    He was an immense figure who illuminated every opera he touched. His work was always new & fresh but also rooted in both text & music. His passing is a tragic loss, but his immense legacy of superbly insightful productions will tell of his genius for years. R. I. P.

  • Peter Sidhom says:

    I can’t find words to express my grief at this news. Graham was a genius and an absolute joy to work with, constantly pushing the boundaries and encouraging people to explore things within themselves they didn’t know were there. At the very start of my career he trusted me with major roles and gave me the confidence to find myself as a singing actor, for which I will be forever grateful. Every time we met he greeted me with a loving hug, and I’m devastated to realise that won’t happen again. Ron, if you’re reading this, you’re very much in my thoughts and Sarah and I send you our love.

  • Anon says:

    “Soprano” Dame Sarah Connolly? Really? Have you heard her?!

  • Simon Holt says:

    Many years ago now, I saw his ROH production of Berio’s ‘Un re in ascolto’ three times and could happily have seen it the remaining three. Astonishing and totally unforgettable. Even when I knew the chorus were going to rise into the air on wires singing and I’d seen the stage hands attaching the wires to them, it was still breathtaking when it happened. Ice Break, Mittwoch, Onegin. All amazing! Tragic loss.

  • gideon davey says:

    As a recent graduate from design school, I was lucky enough to work on a number of Graham’s productions. Experiencing the collaboration between Graham and Maria Björnson, Paul Brown and Richard Hudson was extremely formative for a young designer. Graham championed talent and nurtured several generations of artists.
    I am proud and grateful to have been encouraged by him. Whether the work was on the stage of one of the biggest opera houses in the world, on top of a hill in Tuscany or in the Bull Ring in Birmingham, Graham cared only about the work and it’s ability to communicate with the audience.
    He will be greatly missed.

  • Hilary says:

    The considerable efforts of Graham Vick went a small way in denting the extraordinary discrepancies in access to music across the U.K. For example, not all secondary schools have a music department as an indirect result of policies from the Thatcher administration.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      So do tell us Hilary how many music departments were created and sustained under the Labour Government that followed on from the Thatcher (and her subsequent acolytes) era?

      • Hilary says:

        As you probably know it was down to allocation of budgets being at the discretion of the school rather than the council (Thatcher admin.) When the pinch is felt arts related will be vulnerable. Hence ‘ indirect’.

        Labour isn’t without blame. The ‘left’ has had hang ups about classical music being elitist but the epicentre of the problem lays firmly with the Thatcher administration.

        • Ellingtonia says:

          Well, I have to say that is the best bit of equivocation (nay, some would say bullshit) I have read in some considerable time.

        • Saxon says:

          Allowing each school to set its own priorities also allowed some schools to increase their provision of music. Will you blame Thatcher for that too?

  • Donna Pasquale says:

    Sir Graham started his career with Scottish Opera, where he founded a touring company to take productions to remote communities.And we continue to be blessed by that work.