Renowned opera director Graham Vick dies from Covid complications aged 67

Sir Graham Vick, the internationally acclaimed opera director, has died from complications of Covid-19, at the age of 67. The news was announced by Birmingham Opera Company, of which he was artistic director.

He made exciting and experimental stagings at opera houses across the world, and had spells as director of productions at Scottish Opera and Glyndebourne before founding the Birmingham company in 1987. He was knighted in the 2021 new year honours.

In a tweet released on Saturday, Birmingham Opera Company said it was devastated to announce Vick’s death.

The company has become well known for its extensive outreach programme, performing shows in unusual locations – from factories to warehouses – to non-traditional opera audiences. Vick explained: “In the glorious participation of audience and performers – of people and peoples from every aspect of the city, every age, every ethnicity every social background – only there can I be completely myself.”

Cast and audience at Birmingham Opera’s 2015 production of The Ice Break by Michael Tippett, performed in a warehouse.
Cast and audience at Birmingham Opera’s 2015 production of The Ice Break by Michael Tippett, performed in a warehouse. Photograph: Donald Cooper

Other houses followed the news with their own tributes. English National Opera said memories of working with him had been very special, and sent “heartfelt condolences to all of Graham’s loved ones”. Scottish Opera said he would be “remembered fondly by us for his warmth and kindness towards his fellow artists”.

Observer critic Fiona Maddocks described him as ‘“brave, original and generous”.

Vick was born in Birkenhead, Merseyside, in 1953 and studied at the Royal Northern College of Music.

In 2016, he gave the keynote speech at the Royal Philharmonic Society awards, and his words were published in the Guardian. He said: “My work as a director, from the highly complex multi-faceted productions challenging the audience to make choices, to the austere essential stage worlds encouraging them to fill the empty space with imaginative response, always seeks to release the music.”

He memorably implored classical musical proponents to “get out of our ghetto” to reach audiences and shape the future of music. “You do not need to be educated to be touched, to be moved and excited by opera.”

The RPS said last night: “We must all strive to follow his example and continue his mission.”