Richard Bonynge

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Richard Bonynge
Richard Bonynge and Pretty Yende.jpeg
Tenor Colin Lee, soprano Pretty Yende, Bonynge, mezzo-soprano Violina Anguelov and baritone George Stevens at a concert performance of Lucia di Lammermoor in Cape Town in April 2013
Richard Alan Bonynge

(1930-09-29) 29 September 1930 (age 88)
Occupation Conductor and pianist
Years active1962–present [1]
Spouse(s)Dame Joan Sutherland (1954–2010, her death)

Richard Alan Bonynge AC, CBE [2] ( /ˈbɒnɪŋ/ BON-ing) (born 29 September 1930) is an Australian conductor and pianist. He is the widower of Australian dramatic coloratura soprano Dame Joan Sutherland. Bonynge conducted virtually all of Sutherland's operatic performances from 1962 until her retirement in 1990.

Conducting directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures

Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as an orchestral or choral concert. It has been defined as "the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture." The primary duties of the conductor are to interpret the score in a way which reflects the specific indications in that score, set the tempo, ensure correct entries by ensemble members, and "shape" the phrasing where appropriate. Conductors communicate with their musicians primarily through hand gestures, usually with the aid of a baton, and may use other gestures or signals such as eye contact. A conductor usually supplements their direction with verbal instructions to their musicians in rehearsal.


The word coloratura is originally from Italian, literally meaning "coloring", and derives from the Latin word colorare. When used in English, the term specifically refers to elaborate melody, particularly in vocal music and especially in operatic singing of the 18th and 19th centuries, with runs, trills, wide leaps, or similar virtuoso-like material. Its instrumental equivalent is ornamentation. It is also now widely used to refer to passages of such music, operatic roles in which such music plays a prominent part, and singers of these roles.

A soprano[soˈpraːno] is a type of classical female singing voice and has the highest vocal range of all voice types. The soprano's vocal range (using scientific pitch notation) is from approximately middle C (C4) = 261 Hz to "high A" (A5) =880 Hz in choral music, or to "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C) =1046 Hz or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody. The soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, soubrette, lyric, spinto, and dramatic soprano.



Bonynge was born in Epping, a suburb of Sydney, and educated at Sydney Boys' High School before studying piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and gaining a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, where his piano teacher was Herbert Fryer. [3] [4] He gave up his music scholarship, continuing his private piano studies, and became a coach for singers. One of these was Joan Sutherland, whom he had accompanied in Australia. They married in 1954 and became a duo, performing operatic recitals until 1962. When the scheduled conductor for a recital of operatic arias became ill and the replacement conductor was involved in a car accident, [5] Bonynge stepped in and, from that time on, he conducted virtually all of his wife's performances.

Epping, New South Wales Suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Epping is a suburb of Sydney, in the Australian state of New South Wales, 18 kilometres north-west of the Sydney central business district in the local government area of the City of Parramatta. Epping is located in the Northern Suburbs and Greater Western regions of Sydney.

Sydney City in New South Wales, Australia

Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia's east coast, the metropolis surrounds Port Jackson and extends about 70 km (43.5 mi) on its periphery towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the north, the Royal National Park to the south and Macarthur to the south-west. Sydney is made up of 658 suburbs, 40 local government areas and 15 contiguous regions. Residents of the city are known as "Sydneysiders". As of June 2017, Sydney's estimated metropolitan population was 5,131,326, and is home to approximately 65% of the state's population.

Piano musical instrument

The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700, in which the strings are struck by hammers. It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings.

His debut as an opera conductor took place in 1963 in Vancouver, where he conducted Faust . The same year, also in Vancouver, he conducted Norma for the first time, starring Sutherland and Marilyn Horne. [6] He also conducted the English Chamber Orchestra in many recordings. [7]

Vancouver City in British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver is a coastal seaport city in western Canada, located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. As the most populous city in the province, the 2016 census recorded 631,486 people in the city, up from 603,502 in 2011. The Greater Vancouver area had a population of 2,463,431 in 2016, making it the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada. Vancouver has the highest population density in Canada with over 5,400 people per square kilometre, which makes it the fifth-most densely populated city with over 250,000 residents in North America behind New York City, Guadalajara, San Francisco, and Mexico City according to the 2011 census. Vancouver is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada according to that census; 52% of its residents have a first language other than English. Roughly 30% of the city's inhabitants are of Chinese heritage. Vancouver is classed as a Beta global city.

<i>Faust</i> (opera) Grand opera in five acts by Charles Gounod

Faust is an opera in five acts by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from Carré's play Faust et Marguerite, in turn loosely based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, Part One. It debuted at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris on 19 March 1859, with influential sets designed by Charles-Antoine Cambon and Joseph Thierry, Jean Émile Daran, Édouard Desplechin, and Philippe Chaperon.

<i>Norma</i> (opera) opera by Vincenzo Bellini

Norma is a tragedia lirica or opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini with libretto by Felice Romani after the play Norma, ou L'infanticide by Alexandre Soumet. It was first produced at La Scala in Milan on 26 December 1831.

By doing some research and reading up on Massenet and Italian bel canto composers, Bonynge discovered Massenet's own statement about his opera Esclarmonde being his "best achievement." This filled Bonynge with curiosity, even more because Esclarmonde had sunk into almost total oblivion and had hardly been performed at all since the end of the 19th century. He obtained a tattered vocal score of it in Paris, and subsequently bought the full orchestral score from an auction in New York City. Although Sutherland was initially skeptical about Esclarmonde, Bonynge became an enthusiast of the work and eventually convinced her that she should perform the role of Esclarmonde herself. The San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera premieres of Esclarmonde took place in 1974 and 1976 respectively. [8]

Jules Massenet French composer

Jules Émile Frédéric Massenet was a French composer of the Romantic era best known for his operas, of which he wrote more than thirty. The two most frequently staged are Manon (1884) and Werther (1892). He also composed oratorios, ballets, orchestral works, incidental music, piano pieces, songs and other music.

Bel canto —with several similar constructions —is a term with several meanings that relate to Italian singing.

<i>Esclarmonde</i> opera by Jules Massenet

Esclarmonde is an opéra in four acts and eight tableaux, with prologue and epilogue, by Jules Massenet, to a French libretto by Alfred Blau and Louis Ferdinand de Gramont. It was first performed on 15 May 1889 by the Opéra-Comique at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Place du Châtelet in Paris.

In 1977 he was the founding Music Director of the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, [9] when he conducted Le roi de Lahore staged there (in which his wife also took part). [10]

Vancouver Opera

Vancouver Opera is the second largest performing arts organization in British Columbia and the largest opera company in western Canada. Its mainstage performances occur in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, other venues in Vancouver and occasionally elsewhere in British Columbia. Vancouver Opera has one of only two professional opera orchestras in Canada. After many regular seasons with four mainstage productions a year, the company will see its first festival season in 2017. Vancouver Opera also runs a school touring and education program, and various community events.

<i>Le roi de Lahore</i> opera by Jules Massenet

Le roi de Lahore is an opera in five acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Louis Gallet. It was first performed at the Palais Garnier in Paris on 27 April 1877 in costumes designed by Eugène Lacoste and settings designed by Jean Émile Daran, Auguste Alfred Rubé and Philippe Chaperon, Louis Chéret, Jean-Baptiste Lavastre, Antoine Lavastre and Eugène Louis Carpezat.

Bonynge made his Metropolitan Opera debut on 12 December 1966, and his last performance there was on 6 April 1991. Most of those performances he conducted there between 1966 and 1987 were with Sutherland singing. From the 1960s until the early 1970s, his speciality was music of 18th and early 19th century, mostly in bel canto repertoire of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. Bonynge then gradually added also middle Verdi ( La traviata , Rigoletto , Il trovatore ), Offenbach ( Les Contes d'Hoffmann ), then also Massenet (Esclarmonde and Werther [11] ).

Gioachino Rossini Italian opera composer

Gioachino Antonio Rossini was an Italian composer who gained fame for his 39 operas, although he also wrote many songs, some chamber music and piano pieces, and some works of sacred music. He set new standards for both comic and serious opera before retiring from large-scale composition while still in his thirties, at the height of his fame.

Vincenzo Bellini Italian opera composer

Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini was an Italian opera composer, who was known for his long-flowing melodic lines for which he was named "the Swan of Catania". Many years later, in 1898, Giuseppe Verdi "praised the broad curves of Bellini's melody: 'there are extremely long melodies as no-one else had ever made before'."

Gaetano Donizetti 19th-century Italian opera composer

Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti was an Italian composer. Along with Gioachino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini, Donizetti was a leading composer of the bel canto opera style during the first half of the nineteenth century. Donizetti's close association with the bel canto style was undoubtedly an influence on other composers such as Giuseppe Verdi.

Bonynge has recorded extensively in the ballet genre: Delibes's three ballets – La Source , Coppélia , Sylvia ; Riccardo Drigo's The Magic Flute and Le Réveil de Flore ; Jacques Offenbach's Le papillon ; Friedrich Burgmüller's La Péri; and Tchaikovsky's three ballets – Swan Lake , The Sleeping Beauty , The Nutcracker . [12] One of Bonynge's most valuable contributions to ballet music is a 10 CD "Compendium of Ballet Rarities" which have been rarely recorded but are often performed by established ballet companies, such as several famous Pas de deux and ballets performed in operas.

Commencing in 2007, he has conducted a series of performances in a few opera houses around the U.S. (Florida Grand Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre), and now is mostly involved with the Opera Australia company ( Lucia di Lammermoor in August 2008, and in 2006 for Opera Queensland; I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Melbourne and Sydney in middle of 2009). [13] [14]

He lives in Les Avants, Switzerland and also maintains a home in Sydney. [1] [15]

His recordings also include some works with no operatic associations, such as the Harp Concerto in E-flat by Reinhold Glière, with harpist Osian Ellis.


Bonynge was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to music in 1977. In 1983, he was made Officer of the Order of Australia, and in 1989 a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres . [3] In 2009, Bonynge was awarded the Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award. [16]

On 26 January 2012, Bonynge was promoted within the Order of Australia to Companion, for "eminent service to the performing arts as an acclaimed conductor and musical scholar, to classical singing and the promotion of opera, and through the collection and preservation of operatic manuscripts." [1] [2]

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  1. 1 2 3 Burke, Kelly (26 January 2012). "Companion piece for Bonynge completes rare double". The Sydney Morning Herald . Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  2. 1 2 "Bonynge, Richard Alan". It's an Honour, Commonwealth of Australia. 26 January 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  3. 1 2 "Richard Bonynge AC CBE". Melba Recordings. 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  4. "Richard Bonynge: The artist as a young man". FainFaire. 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  5. "Richard Bonynge: Maestro of bel canto". FainFaire. 2010. Archived from the original on 23 October 2007. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  6. Vancouver Opera – History: mainstage productions
  7. "English Chamber Orchestra: Conductor: Richard Bonynge". Arkiv 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  8. Sutherland, Joan (2 November 2006). "Interview with Dame Joan Sutherland" (telephone, web transcript). Interviewed by Purdy, Christopher. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  9. Until that moment Vancouver Opera company used Vancouver Symphony Orchestra musicians to play in the pit
  10. Vancouver Opera – History: VOO and Chorus
  11. "Database search: Bonynge". The Metropolitan Opera Archives. 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  12. "Richard Bonynge, conductor: Biography". Colbert Artists. June 2011. Archived from the original on 16 January 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  13. "Our artists: Conductors". Opera Australia. 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  14. "Richard Bonynge, Conductor: Schedule". Operabase. 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  15. Kelly, Patricia (December 2005). "Bonynge looking to his Irish roots". Opera~Opera. Archived from the original on 12 January 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  16. "Maestro Richard Bonynge chosen for 2009 Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award" (Press release). University of Melbourne. 18 August 2009. Retrieved 21 March 2015.