Edward Downes in the recording studio, 1971.

Sir Edward Downes



He joined the Royal Opera House in 1952 and rose to Associate Music Director. He conducted more than 950 times for the company in 49 operas over five decades. This encompassed many world and British premieres including the British premiere of Janácek‘s Jenufa in 1956 for which he collaborated with the Czech-born baritone Otakar Kraus on the English translation.

During his tenure as music director of the Australian Opera (1972-76) he conducted Prokofiev’s War and Peace for the first night at the Sydney Opera House. He joined BBC Philharmonic as Chief Guest Conductor, going on to become Principal Conductor and later Conductor Emeritus. He was Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Orchestra and travelled widely as a guest conductor to opera houses and orchestras all over the world.

Sir Edward was honoured by music colleges and universities as well as receiving the Laurence Olivier, Evening Standard, Critics Circle and Royal Philharmonic Society awards.

He became a CBE in 1986 and was knighted in 1991. He died in 2009.

Last updated: 3rd January 2024