Full Biography (1st Draft)



Alistair Dawes travels widely in his career as conductor, coach and accompanist, working with the top international artists of the operatic world. After working on the World Première of DEATH IN VENICE at The Maltings, Snape, he joined the full-time Music Staff of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, building a wide repertoire of opera and working in all aspects of his profession. He has a profound and detailed knowledge of numerous operas in the Italian, German, French, English, Russian and Czech repertoires.

He played harpsichord continuo in IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, COSI FAN TUTTE and for Karl Böhm’s début at Covent Garden with LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, as well as the harpsichord in THE RAKE’S PROGRESS, and the important solo piano part in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. He was chief répétiteur in the preparation of many notable productions, including LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST for Zubin Mehta and THE RAKE’S PROGRESS and LULU for Sir Colin Davis, assisted many top international conductors, and was Musical Director for the Royal Opera Auction Gala. During this time he conducted CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, I PAGLIACCI, NABUCCO and Holst’s SAVITRI for other U.K. companies, and PETER GRIMES and THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA (producer Jonathan Miller) in workshop productions at ROH. He also worked on numerous TV and gramophone recordings as Assistant Conductor.

He has appeared with all the major UK companies, conducting COSI FAN TUTTE, WERTHER, CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, I PAGLIACCI, NABUCCO, CARMEN, and PETER GRIMES amongst many others and in his capacity as repertoire coach, pianist and continuo player.

In South Africa, Alistair has coached and conducted Caballé, Coertse, Cossotto, Nafé, Napier, Renzi, Botha, Cappuccilli, Collins, Glossop, Prevedi in productions of BARBIERE, BASTIEN UND BASTIENNE, CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, PAGLIACCI, COSI FAN TUTTE, ERWARTUNG, DER SCHAUSPIELDIREKTOR, IL SEGRETO DI SUSANNA, ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, DIDO AND ÆNEAS, ALBERT HERRING, NORMA, TURANDOT, AIDA, and RIGOLETTO, in addition to radio recordings, orchestral and operatic concerts.

Alistair has conducted numerous operatic concerts with renowned orchestras (RTÉ, Philharmonia, City of London Sinfonia, etc.) and soloists (te Kanawa, O’Neill, Cura, Dessì, Domingo) where his expertise in this field, allied to his orchestral repertoire, has led to rapturous receptions.

Alongside concert and operatic performances, Alistair has a special interest in working with emerging International artists, most significantly for the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, Covent Garden and at the National Opera Studio in London, the Opera School of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow and with various Training Programmes overseas.

Allied to this aspect of his work is his position as Music Director for InterOpera (www.interopera.org) Patron Dame Josephine Barstow. The Board of Directors includes Sir Thomas Allen and Nicholas Payne (Director Opera Europa.) This charitable organisation promotes opera, through greater immediacy of performance and accessibility and using established and emerging artists, is specifically aimed at areas of the North-East of England, where many communities would rarely have the opportunity to hear, attend and participate in operatic performances of high standard.

Alistair’s most recent performances include DON GIOVANNI in South Africa, conducting and preparing the entire cast.

In Italy, he conducted the Chamber Orchestra and soloists in the prestigious Parma premiere of Britten’s WAR REQUIEM at the Teatro Regio and has returned for orchestral concerts with the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini. Alistair has also conducted the Orchestra Sinfonica della Fondazione Arturo Toscanini in Parma, Fidenza, Lugo, Cremona and Piacenza. Repertoire has included piano and violin concertos and symphonic works from Mozart to Stravinsky.

After a major tour of RIGOLETTO in the UK in 2007, he conducted the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in Reykjavik with Dame Kiri te Kanawa and Gardar Cortes.

He conducted Dame Kiri te Kanawa and Dennis O’Neill with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in the prestigious “European Capital of Culture” Concert in Cork (2006).

Alistair made his New Zealand debut in Wellington and Auckland in 2006, conducting DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE in Sir Peter Hall’s renowned Los Angeles production, for New Zealand Opera, Alistair conducted performances for the Young Artists Programme at the New National Theatre in Tokyo, before returning to Italy for a series of concerts of Mozart Piano and Violin Concertos in Piacenza.

Alistair made his conducting début for Opera North with MANON, returning to the Company in 2005 to conduct DON GIOVANNI at the Grand Theatre, Leeds, on tour and in Belfast.

Returning to Italy in the same year, he conducted the new Cesare da Lievi production of PETER GRIMES (Tierney, Burrell/Vacik, Holland) in Modena, Reggio Emilia and Ferrara, which was received with outstanding reviews.

Following a series of Mozart and Mendelssohn concerts in 2005 with the Orchestra Sinfonica della Fondazione Arturo Toscanini,

Engagements in 2003/4 included vocal and orchestral concerts, including Shostakovich Symphony N° 8, Mozart “Jupiter” Symphony, Beethoven 1st Symphony, DON GIOVANNI and consultant/assistant to the new Music Director of Opera North, Richard Farnes (TOSCA) and as coach for DAMNATION DE FAUST.

In January 2004 he acted as musical consultant for the Graham Vick production of PETER GRIMES at the Paris Opéra Bastille (Anthony Dean Griffey).

Alistair conducted the fully-staged World Premiere of Will Todd’s THE BLACKENED MAN – prize winner in the La Scala International Verdi Competition in Milan – at the 2004 Buxton Festival and at the Gala Theatre in Durham, following its workshop production in the Linbury Studio at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

In January 2001 Alistair made his conducting début in Florence, to overwhelming critical acclaim, at the Teatro Goldoni with Daniele Abbado’s production of THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA.

The 1999/2000 season opened with performances of TOSCA (UK), followed by a return to Finnish National Opera, for PETER GRIMES. He made his début at the Carlo Felice in Genova as assistant conductor to Bruno Bartoletti and solo pianist in the Pizzi production of DEATH IN VENICE (Hadley), subsequently being invited to the Teatro Comunale in Florence as assistant conductor for the same production. Millennium concerts in Ireland, conducting José Cura and the RTÉ National Concert Orchestra in Cork and Dublin, were followed by performances of TOSCA and HÄNSEL UND GRETEL on tour in the U.K.

The 1998/99 season opened with his début at Finnish National Opera conducting PETER GRIMES, concerts with José Cura and the National Symphony Orchestra in Dublin, and assistant to Sir Andrew Davis on PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE at Glyndebourne.

Alistair was invited to be the Music Director of the new International Longborough Festival Opera in 1998, conducting performances of DAS RHEINGOLD and DIE WALKÜRE during the opening two seasons, to great critical acclaim.

Alongside his operatic experience, Alistair made his orchestral concert début with the Philharmonia Orchestra, (Barbican Centre, London). He appeared with the City of London Sinfonia at the Exeter Festival and AT Osborne House, Isle of Wight in 1997, alongside performances and recordings of CARMEN and SAMSON ET DALILAH (Borodina, Cura) as assistant to Sir Colin Davis, with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Alistair made his German conducting début with RIGOLETTO at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf in 1996 and he returned to Germany in November 1997 to conduct a series of concerts with José Cura.

In 1994 Alistair made his conducting début at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden with CHÉRUBIN, subsequently conducting COSI FAN TUTTE and the Moshinsky production of PETER GRIMES both at the Royal Opera House and on tour in Sicily.

In May 1993 he travelled to San Francisco for a New Production of CAPRICCIO with Dame Kiri te Kanawa, later appearing in the TV video of Dame Kiri’s life, for which programme he also acted as Assistant Conductor.

Later that year he conducted CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA and I PAGLIACCI at the State Theatre in Pretoria.

In addition to conducting and accompanying numerous opera gala concerts and appearing in the 1993 Olivier Awards conducting an extract from STIFFELIO, he has worked as assistant conductor on televised productions of LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES and MIDSUMMER MARRIAGE.

In 1992 he prepared the award-winning South African premiere of DEATH IN VENICE.

In 1991 he was appointed Head of Music Staff at Covent Garden

In 1990 he travelled to San Francisco Opera with Dame Kiri te Kanawa as coach/prompter for performances of CAPRICCIO, (production: John Cox, costume design: Versace, ).

In 1990 he conducted the première of the BAFTA Awards Nomination OUT OF SEASON in Covent Garden’s second Garden Venture season.

In 1989 appeared on stage at the Royal Opera House in the role of Pianista che Canta in the U.K. première of Berio’s UN RE IN ASCOLTO.

In 1986 he returned to the U.K., appearing at the Buxton Festival in recital and playing harpsichord continuo for ARIODANTE. He again worked for all the major national companies, being appointed Guest Répétiteur at Covent Garden.

In 1986 for the State Theatre, he conducted THE KING AND I, prepared the whole cast for performances of PETER GRIMES and prepared and conducted CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA and I PAGLIACCI.

1984 he returned to South Africa, taking up an appointment as Musical Director of the Opera School in Pretoria, also conducting performances of DIDO ANDÆNEAS”, BASTIEN UND BASTIENNE, DER SCHAUSPIELDIREKTOR and COSI FAN TUTTE (also playing harpsichord continuo), THE BEGGAR’S OPERA, ALBERT HERRING and ERWARTUNG for the Breytenbach Theatre.

1983 Alistair was specially requested by Placido Domingo to fly to Spain to accompany him in an inaugural concert of a new open-air auditorium in Marbella.

From 1982 Alistair worked as a freelance répétiteur at Covent Garden, English National Opera and Glyndebourne, as well as being invited to coach at the newly-founded National Opera Studio. He appeared in Master Classes with Sir Geraint Evans, later accompanying Sir Geraint on BBC Television’s “Wogan Show”. He worked as Assistant Conductor for television productions of LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES, MIDSUMMER MARRIAGE and the video profile of Robert Lloyd entitled “Six Foot Cinderella”.

In 1981 he took up the post of Chorus Master at the State Theatre in Pretoria, South Africa, where he also conducted many choral and orchestral concerts. For the Breytenbach Theatre, he conducted SUSANNA’S SECRET, ARIADNE AUF NAXOS and programmes of operatic excerpts.

1973 to 1981. Notable productions during this period include:- OWEN WINGRAVE (Theatre Premiere-1971), BORIS GODUNOV (1974) – Ahronovitch/Christoff, BENVENUTO  CELLINI (1976) – Davis/Gedda, TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (1976) – Foster/Janet Baker, LES TROYENS (1977) – Davis/Cassily, LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST (1977) Mehta/ Domingo /Neblett

1973 joined full-time Music Staff at Covent Garden.

Alistair studied at Nottingham University with Professor Ivor Keys, gaining a B.Mus. (Hons) degree in Music, conducting Wagner’s DAS LIEBESVERBOT. After leaving University he spent a year at the London Opera Centre, then toured with Opera for All for two seasons, during which time he also worked at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as a freelance répétiteur.

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