Music Directors of Scottish Opera
Sir Alexander Gibson
Born in Motherwell near Glasgow in 1926, Sir Alexander Gibson studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, at Glasgow University and – after serving with the Royal Signals – the Royal College of Music, the Mozarteum, Salzburg under Igor Markevitch, and under Paul Van Kempen at the Accademia Chigiana, Siena.
Appointed Sadler’s Wells youngest Music Director in 1957, he conducted a total of 26 operas there and made his Covent Garden début in the same year with Tosca.
Returning to Scotland for a two-year period as Ian Whyte’s assistant at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Sir Alex was offered the principal conductorship of the Scottish National Orchestra. Taking advantage of spare weeks in the SNO’s schedule, he seized the chance to found Scotland’s first professional opera company.
Scottish Opera gave its first season in 1962 at the King's Theatre, Glasgow with productions of Madama Butterfly and Pelléas and Mélisande. Both works were greatly received and soon Peter Hemmings was appointed as the first general administrator.
The following years were a period of remarkable growth and artistic achievement.
In 1975, Scottish Opera moved to the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, and Sir Alex continued as Music Director until 1987, when he became the Company’s first Conductor Laureate; he was to return many times as Guest Conductor until his death in 1995.
During his career he made guest appearances with all the major British orchestras and extensively throughout Europe, Australia, the Americas, Hong Kong and Japan.
His many awards include two Grand Prix International de l’Academie Charles Cros Awards, the Sibelius Medal in 1978, and honorary doctorates from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Newcastle, Stirling, York and the Open universities. He was made CBE in 1967 and knighted in 1977.
In December 1998, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow opened the Alexander Gibson Opera School in his memory.
Was born in 1945 in New York and studied at Yale University, subsequently serving on the Faculty for 15 years. He was Music Director of the Teatro Regio in Turin for three years, and in 1987 became the Music Director of Scottish Opera, a post he held until 1993.
While at Scottish Opera he conducted the production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide, adapted by John Wells, which gained an Olivier Award. The recording of the production received a Grammy Award. He also made a recording of Kurt Weill’s Street Scene with the Company, which was awarded a Deutsche Schallplatten Prize in 1992. He won the Wavenden Allmusic Award for Conductor of the Year in 1990.
From 1991 to 2006 he was the Principal Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and currently holds the title of Founding Director of the orchestra. He was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2007. From 2000 to 2006 he was Music Director of Pittsburgh Opera. In May 2006 he was appointed Chancellor of the North Carolina School of the Arts.
Sir Richard Armstrong
Sir Richard Armstrong was Music Director of Scottish Opera from 1993 to 2005.
He conducted the world première of James MacMillan’s Inés de Castro (a revival of which was broadcast by BBC television) and five complete performances of Scottish Opera’s acclaimed Ring Cycle, which opened at the 2003 Edinburgh International Festival, and was subsequently seen at the Theatre Royal Glasgow and The Lowry, Salford Quays. He led Scottish Opera on a number of visits abroad: to Lisbon in 1994, to the 2000 Vienna Festival, where the Company performed its highly praised production of Macbeth, and to Porto in 2001, where he conducted the European première of Inés de Castro.
Born in Leicester, Richard Armstrong was an organ scholar at Corpus Christi College Cambridge, before joining the music staff of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where he worked with Solti, Giulini, Klemperer and Kubelik.
As Music Director of Welsh National Opera from 1973 to 1986 he worked in collaboration with many leading European directors, including Peter Stein, Joachim Herz, Lucian Pintilie, and Harry Kupfer, conducting a wide repertoire of Verdi, Wagner, Janácek, Strauss, Berg and Britten and, in 1986, performances of the complete Ring Cycle. He returned to WNO for the world première of Peter Maxwell-Davies’ The Doctor of Myddfai, and for Peter Stein’s 1988 production of Falstaff, which he also conducted in New York, Milan, Paris and Tokyo.
In 1978 he won the Janácek Medal in recognition of the pioneering Janácek cycle produced in collaboration with David Pountney for Welsh National Opera and Scottish Opera. In 2004 he conducted Kátya Kabanová for the Janácek Festival in the composer’s native Brno, to celebrate Janácek’s 150th birthday.
He made his Proms début in 1979, and has worked with many leading British orchestras.
In 1993 Richard Armstrong was made Commander, Order of the British Empire (CBE) for Services to Music, and was knighted in the 2004 New Year’s honours. In 1997 he was awarded the United Kingdom Conductor of the Year by the Royal Philharmonic Music Society. He is an Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and holds honorary doctorates in Music from Glasgow, Aberdeen and St Andrews Universities.
Francesco Corti was Music Director of Scottish Opera from 2007 to 2013.
He made his official début as Music Director conducting Smetana's The Two Widows at the 2008 Edinburgh International Festival, which won a Herald Angel Award.
He has since conducted Massenet's Manon, Bellini's I Puritani, Donizetti's The Elixir of Love, Puccini's La boheme, Puccini's La fanciulla del West (at the 2010 Edinburgh International Festival) and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro for the company. He has also conducted R Strauss' Intermezzo, Rossini's The Barber of Seville, Puccini's Tosca, Scottish Opera's 50th anniversary concert of Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci, Massenet's Werther and Wagner's The Flying Dutchman.
Francesco Corti studied Violin and Composition in his home city of Milan, and Conducting in Vienna. He made his operatic conducting début in 1986 with Verdi's La traviata at Jesi. He recently completed his tenure as Music Director of Magdeburg Opera in Germany, having previously been Music Director of the Pfalztheater, Kaiserslautern and First Kapellmeister at Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf-Duisberg.
He has worked at opera houses throughout Europe, including the Norwegian Opera, Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Vienna Volksoper and Gothenburg Opera. He made his US début in 2007 conducting Il barbiere di Siviglia at San Francisco Opera.