Opera Scotland

Brian Priestman Suggest updates

Born Birmingham, 10 February 1927.

Died Broze, France, 18 April 2014.

English conductor.

Brian Priestman's career was largely conducted outside the UK, and he was particularly noted for his introduction of Handel operas to New York.

After studies at Birmingham University and the Brussels Conservatoire, he worked at the Barber Institute in Birmingham under Sir Anthony Lewis. In 1960 he became director of the music at the Stratford Memorial Theatre, which, in 1963, became the Royal Shakespeare Company. In the early sixties he also worked with the New Opera Company and Sadler's Wells Opera in London.

As the first music director of the Handel Society of New York from 1966 he introduced several of that composer's operas and oratorios to the USA, making pioneering recordings of several of them. He was also highly regarded as an orchestral conductor, working in Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as throughout the UK. He was Dean of the Music Faculty at the University of Cape Town from 1980 to 1986.

His operatic appearances with Scottish Opera were limited to two. The Ravel in 1963 was part of a collaboration with his New Opera Company from Sadler's Wells. His excellent, idiomatic performance of Die Fledermaus was perhaps underappreciated at the time brcause those performances constituted a memorable final role for Elizabeth Harwood with the added enjoyment of a virtuoso rendering of Frosch by Billy Connolly.

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