Opera Scotland

John Barbirolli Suggest updates

Sir John Barbirolli;  Giovanni Battista Barbirolli.

Born London, 2 December 1899.

Died London, 29 June 1970.

English conductor.

Sir John Barbirolli had a fine career, remembered particularly for nearly thirty years spent as conductor of the Hallé Orchestra, based in Manchester. That was preceded by shorter periods in charge of the Scottish Orchestra in Glasgow and then the New York Philharmonic. Earlier he conducted much opera, particularly with the British National Opera Company (BNOC) and the Covent Garden company. Even during his years with the Hallé he returned occasionally to the opera house.

He trained in London, initially as a cellist, winning scholarships to both Trinity College of Music and the Royal Academy.

He conducted opera in Scotland for BNOC  (in all four cities) and later with the Covent Garden company.  The Scottish Orchestra, based in Glasgow, also played regularly in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.  After the war he brought the Hallé to tour Scotland on a number of occasions.  His last concert tour, includng Dundee and Aberdeen, was in 1965.

In the last years before his death he made three complete opera recordings - Madama Butterfly (in Rome, with Scotto and Bergonzi); Dido and Aeneas (with Victoria de los Angeles and Peter Glossop); and Otello (with Gwyneth Jones, James McCracken and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau).  One of his last recordings, not reissued on CD,  was of Verdi's Requiem with an excellent team of soloists - Montserrat Caballé, Fiorenza Cossotto, Jon Vickers and Ruggiero Raimondi.

He was an Elgar enthusiast, and his recording of The Dream of Gerontius with Janet Baker, Richard Lewis and Kim Borg is justifiably famous.  There is also an interesting live recording from a concert in Rome, with Constance Shacklock and Jon Vickers.  Live extracts of Turandot recorded during the 1937 Coronation season at Covent Garden have also been made available, with Eva Turner and Giovanni Martinelli on fine form.

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