Opera Scotland

Michael Geliot Suggest updates

Born London, 27 September 1933.

Died London, 12 May 2012.

English director.

Michael Geliot worked extensively in theatre (especially in his early days in Scotland), though he is perhaps better known for his operatic work, particularly his years as director of productions for Welsh National Opera from 1969-74. His productions may sometimes have been controversial, but they were always interesting, and certainly never dull.

He read English at Pembroke College, Cambridge, gaining experience as a director of drama and contemporary music, operatic projects including Catulli Carmina (Orff), The Devil Take Her (Arthur Benjamin),  and The School for Wives (Rolf Liebermann, before joining the Royal Court Theatre in London as an assistant in 1958. His professional operatic career began with periods as a staff producer both at Glyndebourne and at Sadler's Wells, where he directed the first British staging of Boulevard Solitude by Henze in 1962.

He first worked in Scotland directing a production of The Caretaker at the Traverse in 1963. The following year he directed the British première of Kurt Weill's little know collaboration with Brecht, Happy End, which was so successful in Edinburgh that it transferred to London. Further work with the Traverse included three plays starring Leonard Maguire - The Old Tune by Samuel Beckett, The Dock Brief by John Mortimer, and the large scale Shakespeare production in the Assembly Hall for the 1965 Festival - a Macbeth which was not universally liked. During this period, other work in Scotland included stagings of Handel's Partenope and Agrippina at Ledlanet and his first large-scale operatic production, Boris Godunov with Scottish Opera.

During his years with Welsh National he directed a range of styles. His Mozart productions included Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, Idomeneo and The Magic Flute, and his Verdi stagings Nabucco, Aïda, Otello and Don Carlos (receiving its first UK airing outside London). He also directed the first British productions of The Greek Passion and Lulu, a highly dramatic Turandot (with Pauline Tinsley), The Coronation of Poppea, Andrea Chénier, and a memorably masterful Billy Budd, with Thomas Allen, Nigel Douglas and Forbes Robinson. Most of these were conducted by Richard Armstrong.

During this period he worked at Covent Garden, directing a visually spectacular staging in 1972 of Taverner, followed by a Carmen, conducted by Solti with a superb cast led by Shirley Verrett, Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa. He returned to Scottish Opera for its first production of Tristan und Isolde, and took on the challenge of The Damnation of Faust with Sadler's Wells. He also directed Benjamin Luxon and Linda Esther Gray in Eugene Onegin for Netherlands Opera.

He directed world premières of four operas - two with Scottish Opera, and one each at Covent Garden and Welsh National. They were Robin Orr's Full Circle (Perth 1968), Taverner by Peter Maxwell Davies (London 1972), Hoddinott's The Beach at Falesá (Cardiff 1974) and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by Thomas Wilson (York 1976).

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