Graham Vick, Director Who Opened Opera’s Doors, Dies at 67

LONDON — Graham Vick, a British opera director who labored at prestigious homes just like the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala whereas additionally searching for to broaden opera’s enchantment by staging works in deserted rock golf equipment and former factories and by bringing extra range to casting, died on Saturday in London. He was 67.

The trigger was issues of Covid-19, the Birmingham Opera Company, which he based, mentioned in a information launch.

Mr. Vick spent a lot of the coronavirus pandemic in Crete, Greece, and returned to Britain in June to participate in rehearsals for a Birmingham Opera manufacturing of Wagner’s “Das Rhinegold,” Jonathan Groves, his agent, mentioned in a phone interview.

Mr. Vick was inventive director at the corporate, which he noticed as a car to carry opera to everybody. His productions there, which had been in English, usually included beginner performers. And he insisted on protecting ticket costs low in order that anybody may attend, and on hiring singers who mirrored the ethnic range of Birmingham, Britain’s second largest metropolis. His immersive manufacturing of Verdi’s “Otello” in 2009 featured Ronald Samm, the primary Black tenor to sing the title position in an expert manufacturing in Britain.

The firm by no means held V.I.P. receptions as a result of Mr. Vick believed that no viewers member ought to be seen as above every other.

Ronald Samm was the primary Black tenor to sing the title position in “Otello” in an expert manufacturing in Britain.Credit…Peter Roy

“You do not need to be educated to be touched, to be moved and excited by opera,” he mentioned in a speech at the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards in 2016. “You only need to experience it directly at first hand, with nothing getting in the way.”

Opera makers should “remove the barriers and make the connections that will release its power for everybody,” he added.

Oliver Mears, the Royal Opera House’s director of opera, mentioned in an announcement that Mr. Vick had been “a true innovator in the way he integrated community work into our art form.”

“Many people from hugely diverse backgrounds love opera — and first experienced it — through his work,” he mentioned.

Graham Vick was born on Dec. 30, 1953, in Birkenhead, close to Liverpool. His father, Arnold, labored in a clothes retailer, whereas his mom Muriel (Hynes) Vick labored within the personnel division of a manufacturing unit. His love of the stage bloomed at age 5 when he noticed a manufacturing of “Peter Pan.”

“It was a complete road-to-Damascus moment,” he advised The Times of London in 2014. “Everything was there — the flight through the window into another world, a bigger world.”

Opera gave him comparable alternatives to “fly, soar, breathe and scream,” he mentioned.

Mr. Vick studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England, aspiring to turn into a conductor. But he turned to directing and created his first manufacturing at 22. Two years later, he directed a manufacturing of Gustav Holst’s “Savitri” for Scottish Opera and shortly grew to become its director of productions.

With Scottish Opera, he shortly confirmed his need to carry opera to native communities. He led Opera-Go-Round, an initiative wherein a small troupe traveled to distant components of Scotland’s Highlands and islands, usually performing with simply piano accompaniment. He additionally introduced opera singers to factories to carry out throughout lunch breaks.

Mr. Vick grew to become director of productions at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1994. That identical yr he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera with a raucous staging of Shostakovich’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” the primary time the corporate carried out the opera. He additionally directed Schoenberg’s “Moses und Aron” and “Il Trovatore” at the Met.

Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times known as Mr. Vick’s “Moses und Aron” “a starkly modern yet poignantly human staging.”

Mr. Vick placed on his first manufacturing at La Scala in Milan in 1996, directing Luciano Berio’s “Outis.” In 1999, after a multiyear renovation and enlargement, he reopened London’s Royal Opera House with Verdi’s “Falstaff.”

Mr. Vick with the solid of “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” at the Birmingham Opera in 2019.Credit…Adam Fradgley

Some of his productions obtained combined and even harsh opinions. “Stalin was right,” Edward Rothstein wrote in The Times in reviewing “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” in 1994, calling Mr. Vick’s manufacturing “crude, primitive, vulgar,” simply as Stalin had finished with Shostakovich’s authentic. Just as usually they had been praised, nevertheless.

Despite Mr. Vick’s success at conventional opera homes, he generally criticized them. “They’re huge, glamorous, fabulous, seductive institutions, but they’re also a dangerous black hole where great art can so easily become self-serving product,” he advised the BBC in 2012.

Mr. Vick’s work at the Birmingham Opera Company, which he based in 1987, was celebrated in Britain for its daring imaginative and prescient. Its first manufacturing, one other “Falstaff,” was staged inside a recreation heart within the metropolis; different productions happened in a burned-out ballroom above a shopping mall and in an deserted warehouse.

Mr. Vick determined to make use of amateurs after rehearsing a Rossini opera in Pesaro, Italy, within the 1990s. It was so sizzling and airless in the future, he recalled in a 2003 lecture, that he opened the theater’s doorways to the road and was shocked to see a gaggle of youngsters cease their soccer sport and watch, transfixed.

“To reach this kind of constituency in Birmingham, we decided to recruit members of the community into our work,” he mentioned. People who purchased tickets ought to see reflections of themselves onstage and within the manufacturing group, he added.

Mr. Vick saved returning to Birmingham as a result of, he mentioned, it was solely there, “in the glorious participation of audience and performers,” that he felt entire.

The firm was praised not just for its inclusivity. Its 2009 staging of “Otello” “gets you in the heart and the guts,” Rian Evans wrote in The Guardian. And Mark Swed, in The Los Angeles Times, known as Mr. Vick’s manufacturing of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Mittwoch aus Licht” in 2012 “otherworldly.” (It included string gamers performing in helicopters and a camel, and was a part of Britain’s 2012 Olympic Games celebrations.)

“If opera is meant to change your perception of what is possible and worthwhile, to dream the impossible dream and all that, then this is clearly the spiritually uplifting way to do it,” Mr. Swed added.

Mr. Vick, who died in a hospital, is survived by his accomplice, the choreographer Ron Howell, in addition to an older brother, Hedley.

In his speech at the Royal Philharmonic Society awards, Mr. Vick urged these within the opera world to “get out of our ghetto” and comply with the Birmingham instance in attempting to mirror the neighborhood the place an organization is predicated.

People must “embrace the future and help build a world we want to live in,” he mentioned, “not hide away fiddling while Rome burns.”