Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Lee Blakeley (1971–2017)

5:13, 7th August 2017

The British director Lee Blakeley, renowned for his work in opera, musical theatre and theatre, has died aged 45.

He held positions as associate director for the Royal Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera and English National Opera, and recently worked for Glyndebourne Touring Opera, Opera New Zealand, de Vlaamse Opera, Opéra de Monte Carlo, Lille, Trieste and Tenerife.  

lee_blakeley_portrait_760pxBorn in Yorkshire in 1971, Blakeley studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and the University of Glasgow. He made his name in Europe with productions of Stephen Sondheim at the Theatre de Chatelet in Paris before launching his operatic career with Madame Butterfly at Santa Fe Opera.

This was followed by productions of The Pearl FishersThe Grand Duchess of Gerolstein and Rigoletto for the same company. Other productions for north American companies included Falstaff for Los Angeles Opera, The Tales of Hoffmann for Canadian Opera Company and the US premiere of Handel’s Richard the Lionheart for Opera Theatre of St Louis.

His relationship with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden began in January 2003, when he assisted director David McVicar in his new production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. He assisted on McVicar’s production of Gounod’s Faust the following year, and went on to direct revivals of both for the company on multiple occasions.

A dedicated proponent of new work, Blakeley presented the European premiere of Tobias Picker’s Thérèse Raquin at the Royal Opera House in 2006, and developed site-specific pieces for the Covent Garden Festival and ENO Studio.

Other productions include Il Turco in Italia Opera Angers e Nantes a co-production with the Grand Theatre Luxembourg, Night at the Chinese Opera for Scottish Opera, The Merry Widow for De Vlaamse Opera, and Rusalka for Wexford Festival.

Committed to training and the development of new talent, he regularly led workshops and tutored at a number of conservatoires. In addition to directing, he worked as an actor, translator, script editor, dramaturg and broadcaster.

Oliver Mears, director of opera at the Royal Opera House, said that Blakeley ‘brought intelligence, fun and flair to the rehearsal room and he will be very much missed.’

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