Renowned opera director Graham Vick dies from Covid complications aged 67

Tributes paid to director who sought fresh classical audiences with pioneering productions and outreach programmes

Sir Graham Vick, the internationally acclaimed opera director, has died from complications of Covid-19, at the age of 67. The news was announced by Birmingham Opera Company, of which he was artistic director.

He made exciting and experimental stagings at opera houses across the world, and had spells as director of productions at Scottish Opera and Glyndebourne before founding the Birmingham company in 1987. He was knighted in the 2021 new year honours.

We are devastated to announce that today 17 July 2021 Sir Graham Vick, Artistic Director, Birmingham Opera Company died of complications arising from Covid 19. We would ask all to respect the privacy of his partner and loved ones at this time.

— Birmingham Opera Co (@BirminghamOpera) July 17, 2021

In a tweet released on Saturday, Birmingham Opera Company said it was devastated to announce Vick’s death.

The company has become well known for its extensive outreach programme, performing shows in unusual locations – from factories to warehouses – to non-traditional opera audiences. Vick explained: “In the glorious participation of audience and performers – of people and peoples from every aspect of the city, every age, every ethnicity, every social background – only there can I be completely myself.”

Cast and audience at Birmingham Opera’s 2015 production of The Ice Break by Michael Tippett, performed in a warehouse.
Cast and audience at Birmingham Opera’s 2015 production of The Ice Break by Michael Tippett, performed in a warehouse. Photograph: Donald Cooper

Other houses followed the news with their own tributes. English National Opera said memories of working with him had been very special, and sent “heartfelt condolences to all of Graham’s loved ones”. Scottish Opera said he would be “remembered fondly by us for his warmth and kindness towards his fellow artists”.

Observer critic Fiona Maddocks described him as “brave, original and generous”.

Vick was born in Birkenhead, Merseyside, in 1953 and studied at the Royal Northern College of Music.

In 2016, he gave the keynote speech at the Royal Philharmonic Society awards, and his words were published in the Guardian. He said: “My work as a director, from the highly complex multi-faceted productions challenging the audience to make choices, to the austere essential stage worlds encouraging them to fill the empty space with imaginative response, always seeks to release the music.”

He memorably implored classical musical proponents to “get out of our ghetto” to reach audiences and shape the future of music. “You do not need to be educated to be touched, to be moved and excited by opera.”

The RPS said last night: “We must all strive to follow his example and continue his mission.”


Guardian music

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sir Graham Vick obituary
Innovative opera director determined to put on groundbreaking productions in unusual settings

Barry Millington

20, Jul, 2021 @2:05 PM

Article image
Maestro, cue the camel: Graham Vick’s greatest opera productions
The opera director, who has died aged 67, had a vision of making the art form accessible to all. From Falstaff in a leisure centre to Stockhausen with real helicopters, here are his most ambitious, innovative stagings

Andrew Clements

19, Jul, 2021 @12:07 PM

Article image
The week in classical: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk; Kátya Kabanová; Haitink at 90 – review
Birmingham Opera Company excels with an unforgettable Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. At Scottish Opera, a great season for Kátya Kabanová continues

Fiona Maddocks

16, Mar, 2019 @3:00 PM

Article image
Otello: opera, identity politics and blacking-up
Opera companies now eschew the once traditional black makeup for the lead in Verdi’s masterpiece, but it remains a controversial issue that highlights the need to nurture more diverse talent

Alison Kinney

15, Jun, 2017 @12:13 PM

Article image
Wake review – Birmingham Opera Company breathe life into Lazarus tale
With local staff, chorus and extras, BOC’s latest project offsets an uneven story with its eclectic score and unique atmosphere

Andrew Clements

15, Mar, 2018 @7:07 PM

Article image
The Gondoliers review – a picture-postcard Gilbert and Sullivan from Scottish Opera
The company celebrated its return to the Theatre Royal with some good old-fashioned – if not downright antiquated – fun and frivolity

Rowena Smith

17, Oct, 2021 @12:41 PM

Article image
Birmingham Opera Company: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk review – a blast of pure energy
Tower Ballroom, Birmingham
Shostakovich’s bleak and brilliant satire fits this unconventional opera company perfectly

Erica Jeal

12, Mar, 2019 @12:39 PM

Article image
Why is it such a struggle for new voices to be heard in the old world of English opera? | Erica Jeal
Many think of it as people singing loudly over a huge orchestra, but opera can be so much more, says Guardian music critic Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

01, May, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
From Adès’ angel to Verdi’s fat knight: what to see as classical and opera venues reopen
Live music is back across the UK; we pick ten events to brighten the coming months

Andrew Clements

14, May, 2021 @3:42 PM

Article image
Graham Vick: 'You do not need to be educated to be touched, to be moved and excited by opera'
Graham Vick was the keynote speaker at the 2016 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards. This is a transcript of his speech.

Graham Vick

10, May, 2016 @9:30 PM