Opera Scotland

Peter Ebert Suggest updates

Born Frankfurt, 6 April 1918.

Died Ringmer, East Sussex, 31 December 2012.

German-born, British director and administrator.

Peter Ebert will always have an important place in the history of Scottish Opera, of which he was Director of Productions from its second season, 1963, until 1975, when the company was able to move into the restored Glasgow Theatre Royal. He continued to direct new productions with the company, and also acted as its General Administrator from 1977-80. Earlier, while living for a period in Glasgow, he had directed productions of the Glasgow Grand Opera Society. Several of his stagings at Glyndebourne were brought to the Edinburgh Festival during its early years.

His father, Carl Ebert, was a notable director in Germany who brought his family to Britain in 1933. With the violinist-conductor Fritz Busch, Carl Ebert became one of the founders of Glyndebourne, directing many productions over a quarter-century, interrupted by the war and a period when he worked in Argentina. Peter later wrote an interesting and vivid biography of his father, In this Theatre of Man's Life (1999), unusual in benefiting from the insights of a son working in his father's domain.

Peter's first experience of Scotland came when he was sent to school at Gordonstoun. He began to work at Glyndebourne as his father's assistant on new productions and reviving old ones. Working for the BBC in Glasgow (1948-51) he was able to direct several stagings by the Glasgow Grand Opera, collaborating with artists of the quality of bass Ian Wallace, and tenor Richard Lewis, already known from work at Glyndebourne and London.

In Scottish Opera's first season in 1962, both operas were directed by Dennis Arundell, a highly-regarded veteran. The following year a new pairing of young directors took charge of the three programmes. Ebert directed the company's first Mozart opera, The Seraglio, and the first half of the double bill, Dallapiccola's Volo di notte. Anthony Besch directed Ravel's delightful short farce, L'Heure Espagnole, and the first Verdi production, Otello, which saw the creation of the Scottish Opera Chorus. These two directors would return to the company throughout their careers.

Ebert's Scottish record proceeded with Don Giovanni (1964) and Madama Butterfly (1965). The following season saw him work on both Wagner (Die Walküre) and Verdi (Falstaff). In 1967 the Ring continued with Das Rheingold, and there was more Puccini (La Bohème) before he embarked on The Rake's Progress for the company's first Edinburgh Festival appearance. In 1968 Götterdämmerung saw most of the ideas for the Ring falling into shape. The company then took a break from Wagner with The Trojans for the Berlioz centenary, followed by Fidelio for the Beethoven bicentenary, as well as a delightfull multi-cultural Magic Flute when Edinburgh hosted the Commonwealth Games. In Spring 1971, Siegfried meant the completion of the Ring, and a cycle was performed in Glasgow at the year-end. So Ebert's career in Scotland continued, embracing work by Monteverdi, Gluck, Donizetti and Humperdinck, as well as more Verdi.

At the start of his career he had worked wtith the London Opera Company, at the Cambridge Theatre. From 1952 he directed at the Wexford Festival (Don Pasquale 1953, La sonnambula 1954) and Glyndebourne productions included Don Giovanni, The Seraglio and La forza del destino. He also worked extensively with opera houses in Italy and Germany. He directed at Hanover (1960-62), and was Intendant (a combination of Manager and Director) of the opera houses at Augsburg (1968-73) and Wiesbaden (1975-77).

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