Born in 1925 of Australian parents in America, Sir Charles Mackerras studied in Sydney and Prague and made his debut as an opera conductor at Sadler’s Wells. He was First Conductor of the Hamburg Opera (1966-69) and Musical Director of both Sadler’s Wells (later English National Opera) (1970-77), and of Welsh National Opera (1987-92), where his notable Janáček productions, amongst many others, were acclaimed. From 1976-79 Sir Charles was Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and also conducted the opening public concert at the Sydney Opera House. Sir Charles is Conductor Laureate of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Conductor Emeritus of the Welsh National Opera and Principal Guest Conductor Emeritus of the San Francisco Opera. A specialist in Czech repertory, Sir Charles is Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, following his life-long association with both the Orchestra and many aspects of Czech musical life.
Sir Charles has undertaken much research into performance practice of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. One of the highlights of the 1991 season was the re-opening of the Estates Theatre in Prague, scene of the original premiere of Don Giovanni. Sir Charles conducted a new production of that opera to mark the bi-centenary of Mozart’s death. He has recorded all Mozart’s Symphonies and Serenades with the Prague Chamber Orchestra. With the Scottish Chamber Orchestra he has recorded six Mozart operas, most recently a very successful Idomeneo following performances at the Edinburgh International Festival, and Mozart’s Requiem which was recently released on Linn Records. 2002 marked Sir Charles’ 50th year with the Edinburgh Festival, in which he conducted Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, Handel’s Jeptha and Mozart’s Gran Partita.
His vast discography includes an award-winning cycle of Janáček operas with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Britten’s Gloriana [awarded Gramophone magazine’s Best Opera Recording for 1994] and Dvořák’s Rusalka with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra [awarded Gramophone magazine’s Best Opera Recording and Best Recording of the Year, the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Prix Caecilia and Edison Award for 1999]. Notable are his recordings with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra of Beethoven’s and Mahler’s symphonies and Brahms’ four symphonies with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Sir Charles and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra have recently recorded six Mozart concertos with Alfred Brendel. He has recorded much Czech music with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, including Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, Smetana’s Má vlast, Martinu’s Field Mass and Double Concerto and Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová, Šarka and the Glagolitic Mass all for Supraphon.
Sir Charles has for many years been associated with the Royal Opera House and recently conducted Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail, Don Giovanni, The Bartered Bride, Semele and Rusalka there. In addition to his many appearances with the San Francisco Opera, he has a long association with the Metropolitan Opera, New York. He made his debut at the Salzburg Festival, with the Vienna Philharmonic, conducting Le Nozze di Figaro in 1998, and he returned to Salzburg to conduct the Orchestra in Cherubini’s Medée.
Sir Charles received a CBE in 1974, was knighted in 1979, was honoured with the Medal of Merit from the Czech Republic in 1996 and made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1997. He is a DMus (Hon) of the Universities of Hull, York, Nottingham, Brno (Czech Republic), Griffith (Australia), Oxford, Napier, Melbourne, Sydney and the Prague Academy of Music. Sir Charles is also President of Trinity College of Music. [He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music, Trinity College of Music (London), St. Peter’s College (Oxford) and the Royal Northern College of Music.] Sir Charles celebrated his 75th birthday in 2000 with performances of Der Rosenkavalier and Semele with the San Francisco Opera. The year 2000 also celebrated Sir Charles’ fifty years with the Welsh National Opera. Last season he conducted the Czech Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, B.B.C. Philharmonic Orchestra, B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Later this year he returns to Prague to conduct Janáček’s Výlety pana Broučka (The Excursions of Mr Brouček) at the National Theatre. This season he conducts the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Vienna Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Berlin Philharmonic orchestras in concerts built around the Dvořák and Janáček celebrations.
Sir Charles became a Companion of Honour in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Czech Operas conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras
Dvořák: Rusalka, Czech Philharmonic; The Royal Opera House, San Francisco
Janáček: Příhody lišky Bystroušky, Vienna Philharmonic, Orchestra de Paris, Welsh National Opera, English National Opera; Osud, Welsh National Opera, EMI recording; Její pastorkyňa, Vienna Philharmonic, Wiener Staatsoper, The Royal Opera House, San Francisco, Metropolitan Opera New York, Brno, Berlin Deutsche Opera, Paris Opera, Welsh National Opera, Opera Australia; Kát’a Kabanová, Vienna Philharmonic, English National Opera, San Francisco, Metropolitan Opera, Národní divadlo v Brně, Opera Australia, Czech Philharmonic recording Supraphon; Z mrtvého domu, Vienna Philharmonic, English National Opera, Paris Opera, BBC Philharmonic; Věc Makropulos, Vienna Philharmonic, English National Opera, Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco, Národní divadlo v Brně; Výlety páně Broučkovy, English National Opera, BBC Philharmonic, National Theatre of Prague; Šárka, Czech Philharmonic recording Supraphon
Martinu: Julietta, English National Opera, Řecké pašije, Welsh National Opera, Royal Opera House, Národní divadlo v Brně
Smetana: Prodaná nevěsta, Sadlers Wells Opera, Royal Opera House; Dalibor, English National Opera