Sir Andrew Davis 1944-2024

Sun Apr 21, 2024 at 12:32 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Photo: Peter Tarasiuk

Sir Andrew Davis, longtime music director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, died Saturday of leukemia at age 80.

Following a series of successful appearances leading Lyric Opera performances, Davis was appointed music director and principal conductor of the Chicago company in 2000, a post he held until 2021 when he was named music director emeritus.

“I so admire Sir Andrew’s extraordinary achievements at Lyric and his wonderful legacy,” said Enrique Mazzola in a released statement. “He was a remarkable music director and conductor and I am deeply honored to have succeeded him at Lyric”

“All of us at Lyric Opera of Chicago join the entire classical music world in mourning Sir Andrew’s passing,” said Anthony Freud, general director, president and CEO of the company. “He was a true artistic partner to me and a shining light for so many of us. We will miss his incredible artistry, his extraordinary wisdom, his irrepressible humor, his unfettered zest for life, and his devotion to the arts and the humanities.”

A gracious presence and ebullient personality on and off the podium, the English conductor was especially renown for his performances of Mozart and Strauss operas in Chicago, at Santa Fe Opera and elsewhere.

Yet Davis was a remarkably consistent advocate for a vast range of opera, leading nearly 700 performances of 62 operas by 22 different composers. Among his successes was leading luminous performances of French repertoire such as Massenet’s Werther and bringing inspired advocacy to the sole contemporary commission of his Lyric tenure, the 2015 world premiere of Bel Canto.

Davis was also a distinguished conductor of orchestral repertoire, at his best in music of British composers including Elgar, Vaughan Williams, and Michael Tippett, much of which he recorded as well.

He enjoyed a long association with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as music director from 1975-1988 and then conductor laureate. He served in the same capacity at Glyndebourne and the BBC Symphony Orchestra where his engaging presence proved ideally suited to the Proms concerts.

Davis’s wife, soprano Gianna Rolandi, died in 2021. He is survived by a son, Edward Frazier Davis. 

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