British opera director Graham Vick — who founded the Birmingham Opera Company and has led prominent opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, La Scala in Milan, and the Royal Opera in Milan — passed away on Saturday from COVID complications, according to a Birmingham Opera news release.
Vick was known for his drive to broaden opera's appeal and lower access barriers to the art form. He often staged performances in spaces that were once rock clubs, factories, and nightclubs and invited everyone he could. In his role as director of productions at the Scottish Opera in the 1980s, he took productions to remote communities. He was also known as a proponent for more diverse casting.
“You do not need to be educated to be touched, to be moved and excited by opera," Vick said in a 2016 speech at the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards. "You only need to experience it directly at first hand with nothing getting in the way.”
Following Vick's death, opera companies from around the world published tributes to Vick's career, mourning his passing and celebrating the contributions he made to the field.
"Graham was a passionate believer in social justice and a true innovator in the way he integrated community work into our art form," Oliver Mears, the Royal Opera House’s director of opera said in a statement. "Many people from hugely diverse backgrounds love opera — and first experienced it — through his work, and we all owe him a huge debt for pointing towards new ways of making opera."
A La Scala statement called Vick “one of the most significant figures in contemporary directing, a Maestro capable of revealing the power of the scores he staged and rediscovering their ability to question and move the audience.”
Earlier this year, Queen Elizabeth II knighted Vick for his contributions to opera in Britain.
Our condolences to Mr. Vick's family, friends, and colleagues.