Opera world mourns sudden death of conductor Hickox

Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:37pm EST
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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - The opera world paid tribute on Tuesday to British conductor Richard Hickox, the musical director of Opera Australia, who died of a heart attack on Sunday at the age of 60 in a hotel room in Wales.

Hickox took the top job at Australia's largest opera company in 2005 and recently extended his contract until 2012 despite being at the center of a row in the local opera community over the company's operations, staff, and the time he spent overseas.

Opera Australia's chief executive Adrian Collette said in a statement that the opera company was "profoundly shocked and saddened" at Hickox's death, describing him as "meticulous" and a "singer's conductor."

"But above all I think what Richard brought, and will be missed, is that he had a great sense of the Australianness of this company," Collette said on ABC Radio.

Richard Evans, chief executive at the Sydney Opera House, said in a statement Hickox was a musical leader across the world.

"His contribution to opera, symphonic music and the performing arts in his homeland of England, across Europe, and most recently in Australia was enormously significant," he said.

As well as his role at Opera Australia, Hickox was the founder and music director of the City of London Sinfonia, associate guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and conductor emeritus of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

He won a Grammy in 1997 for his recording of Benjamin Britten's "Peter Grimes."

But in recent months Hickox faced public criticism from mezzo-soprano Fiona Janes who complained about declining standards at the opera company and nepotism, referring to Hickox's wife mezzo-soprano Pamela Helen Stephen.   Continued...