Obituary: British conductor Edward Downes, 85

Posted on: July 14, 2009

In Tuesday’s (7/14) Times (London), Jenny Booth writes, “The distinguished British conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife Lady Joan have ended their lives at the Dignitas clinic in Zurich, their children revealed today. The 85-year-old maestro had become virtually blind and had lost some of his hearing, while his 74-year-old wife had been suffering from cancer, according to a statement released by their son and daughter, Caractacus and Boudicca. … A champion of English music and a devotee of Prokofiev but above all Verdi, Sir Edward was for many years associated with the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, starting in 1952 as a lowly repetiteur. Music director Rafael Kubelik became his mentor and gave him his first breaks by allowing him to stand in at short notice when other conductors cancelled. … He left the Royal Opera House in 1970 to take up a post as music director to Australian Opera, conducting the first performance in the Sydney Opera House, but returned to London each year as a guest conductor. He returned to Covent Garden full time as associate musical director in 1991, and over the years is reckoned to have conducted 950 performances of 49 different operas there.”

July 14, 2009