Opera Scotland

Raymond Leppard Suggest updates

Born London, 11 August 1927.

English conductor and musicologist.

Raymond Leppard achieved prominence through his editions of Italian operas of the early 17th century by Monteverdi and Cavalli, hardly known at the time. He went on to a successful conducting career offering a varied repertoire, working at Glyndebourne and extensively with orchestras in the USA.

Leppard studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and after a period from 1954 as music director at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, he joined the music staff at Glyndebourne in 1956. He returned to academic life at Cambridge from 1958, carrying out research into music of the baroque period.

His realizations of Monteverdi began with Il ballo delle ingrate (Aldeburgh 1958), followed by L'incoronazione di Poppea (Glyndebourne 1962); L' Orfeo (London Sadler's Wells 1965) and Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (Glyndebourne 1972). He also pioneered the production of operas by Cavalli - L'Ormindo (Glyndebourne 1967), La Calisto (Glyndebourne 1969); L'Egisto (Santa Fe 1974) and L'Orione (Santa Fe 1983). These realizations made works in a previously exotic and difficult idiom acceptable to modern audiences, and they were performed widely for several decades. Latterly they have been recognized as too radical, with heavy editing and transposition, insertion of music from other works, and an over-romantic, expanded style of orchestration. Nevertheless, they undoubtedly made the works approachable so that more historically accurate styles of presentation are now acceptable.

As a conductor, he led performances of most of these works. Leppard also took charge of works by other composers, making his Covent Garden debut in 1958 with Handel's Samson. He returned to the house for Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte (1972). Later work at Glyndebourne includes the premiere of The Rising of the Moon (Maw 1970), The Cunning Little Vixen (1975), and, for Dame Janet Baker's farewell to the stage, Orfeo ed Euridice (1982).

Operatic conducting work took him to the New York Met (Billy Budd), New York City Opera (Alceste, Alcina), and San Francisco (Billy Budd), as well as Santa Fe, Paris, Hamburg, Stockholm and Geneva.

His career as an orchestral conductor also developed internationally. He worked with most of the British orchestras and was Music Director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1987 to 2001, when he became Conductor Laureate.

Leppard first worked with Scottish Opera in 1973, conducting Poppea, and returning to give the British premieres of his realizations of L' Egisto (1982) and L' Orione (1984). Further visits were for Le nozze di Figaro (1999) and Orfeo ed Euridice (2002).

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