Opera Scotland

David Pountney Suggest updates

Born Oxford, 10 September 1947.

English director, translator and administrator.

David Pountney has been one of the most consistently successful and influential opera directors of recent years. He has received many international honours for his work, and in 2019 was knighted for services to opera.

Early career

His early career was based with Scottish Opera, first as an assistant director, then staging his own productions. After a period as Director of Productions from 1975 to 1980, he moved on to a similar role at English National Opera (1982 to 1993). Since then he has been based at the Bregenz Festival in Austria and latterly at Welsh National Opera, while continuing to work as a guest with the major houses.

He was educated at Radley College and Cambridge University, where he directed the university Opera Society in a production of The Seven Deadly Sins conducted by his future ENO colleague Mark Elder.

Scottish Opera

Pountney joined Scottish Opera as a staff producer in 1970, assisting Anthony Besch on a new production of The Turn of the Screw. followed by the famous Rosenkavalier with Janet Baker, Helga Dernesch and Elizabeth Harwood in 1971.

He then spent several seasons as an assistant, reviving and revising existing stagings including Don Giovanni, Pelléas et Mélisande, Boris Godunov and Tristan. His first new production was The Rake's Progress in 1971, an uncompromisingly modern view which banished most rococo associations.

In subsequent seasons he directed a variety of successful new productions, Fledermaus, Magic Flute, Seraglio, Meistersinger, Bartered Bride, Golden Cockerel, Macbeth, Don Giovanni and Eugene Onegin. As well as the established designer Ralph Koltai, he worked frequently with two young designers based at the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre - Sue Blane and Maria Bjørnson.

Pountney's first production away from the company was at the 1972 Wexford Festival, when he directed a successful Kátya Kabanová. This was revived the following summer at the York Festival. It provided a foretaste of the impressive cycle of five Janáček operas he later staged as a collaboration between the Scottish and Welsh companies. He returned to Wexford for The Gambler and The Two Widows - the latter staging being revived by Scottish Opera in 1979.

His American debut, with Macbeth, came in 1973 at Houston, and he directed Die Meistersinger at the Sydney Opera House in 1978.

England, and English National Opera

His first work at Covent Garden came in 1977, when he rehearsed a revival of Jenůfa. His debut at ENO came the same year, directing the first production of David Blake's Toussaint, an interesting if diffuse piece which benefitted from his work using Maria Bjørnson's spectacular designs.

Running an opera company is notoriously challenging. However, given subsequent difficulties in recent years, the Mark Elder/David Pountney collaboration at ENO seems in retropect to have been a golden time for the company. Productions during his eleven-year tenure at ENO included The Flying Dutchman, The Valkyrie, Macbeth, Rusalka, Hansel and Gretel, Christmas Eve, The Gambler, The Two Widows, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Wozzeck.

Pountney has returned to Scottish Opera twice, in 1989 for Weill's Street Scene, which was a co-production with ENO, then in 1998 his third Smetana production for the company, Dalibor.

His Opera North production of Genoveva was brought to the Edinburgh Festival. He continued his exploration of Czech themes with Julietta at Opera North and The Greek Passion at Covent Garden. He returned to WNO as both librettist and director for The Doctor of Myddfai by Peter Maxwell Davies. His staging of Fidelio on the lake at the Bregenz Festival in 1995 led to a further development of his international career.

Welsh National Opera

Since 2011 Pountney has been chief executive and artistic director at WNO.

Roles in Scotland

Leopold Baron Ochs' bastard son
Rosenkavalier 1971
Lucia di Lammermoor 1971
Rake's Progress 1971
Lucia di Lammermoor 1972
Lucia di Lammermoor 1973
Zauberflöte 1974
Zauberflöte 1974
Golden Cockerel 1975
Fledermaus 1975
Mastersingers of Nuremberg 1976
Fledermaus 1976
Zauberflöte 1976
Macbeth 1976
Golden Cockerel 1976
Zauberflöte 1977
Jenůfa 1977
Golden Cockerel 1977
Macbeth 1977
Mastersingers of Nuremberg 1977
Jenůfa 1978
Mastersingers of Nuremberg 1978
Entführung aus dem Serail 1978
Bartered Bride 1978
Eugene Onegin 1979
Two Widows 1979
Don Giovanni 1979
Kátya Kabanová 1979
Golden Cockerel 1979
Fledermaus 1979
Cunning Little Vixen 1980
Two Widows 1980
Eugene Onegin 1980
Fledermaus 1981
Eugene Onegin 1981
Makropulos Case 1981
Entführung aus dem Serail 1982
Cunning Little Vixen 1982
Golden Cockerel 1983
Mastersingers of Nuremberg 1983
Bartered Bride 1985
Entführung aus dem Serail 1987
From the House of the Dead 1987
Eugene Onegin 1988
Jenůfa 1989
Street Scene 1989
Cunning Little Vixen 1991
Makropulos Case 1993
Eugene Onegin 1993
Cunning Little Vixen 1997
Dalibor 1998
Genoveva 2000
Julietta 2003
Cunning Little Vixen 2011
Tabarro 2016
Associate Director
Tristan und Isolde 1973
Madam Butterfly 1973
Pelléas and Mélisande 1973
Elegy for Young Lovers 1974
Boris Godunov 1974
Rosenkavalier 1974
Don Giovanni 1975
Elegy for Young Lovers 1975
Pelléas and Mélisande 1975
Don Giovanni 1976
Fledermaus 1975
Fledermaus 1976
Entführung aus dem Serail 1978
Bartered Bride 1978
Fledermaus 1979
Two Widows 1979
Two Widows 1980
Fledermaus 1981
Entführung aus dem Serail 1982
Bartered Bride 1985
From the House of the Dead 1987
Entführung aus dem Serail 1987
Makropulos Case 1993
Hansel and Gretel 1996
Fledermaus 1997
Hansel and Gretel 1998
Fledermaus 2002
Julietta 2003
Fledermaus 2007
Two Widows 2008
Hansel and Gretel 2017
Hansel and Gretel 2021

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