One of Australia’s greatest conductors and pianists, Maestro Richard Bonynge AC CBE is to be awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater the University of Sydney. The ceremony takes place on Saturday October 10 and recognises his long-serving dedication to musical excellence.
Maestro Bonynge will receive the honour on the night he takes to the stage at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (SCM), as special guest conductor and music director of Haydn’s Orfeo ed Euridice, leading a cast of star soloists who will include Greta Bradman and SCM alumni Amelia Farrugia, Brad Cooper, Damien Whiteley and Simon Lobelson, as well as over 200 musicians from the SCM Symphony Orchestra and SCM Chamber Choir.
The performance is the gala event of the Con’s Centenary Festival – a week-long series of events featuring students, staff and guest alumni performers to celebrate 100 years of the Con in 2015.
A prodigious talent, Richard Bonynge won a scholarship to study piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 1942 at the age of 12, going on to perform the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at age 14.
Since making his conducting debut in Rome in 1962, Bonynge has conducted in some of the world’s top opera houses across Europe, the Americas, Australia, Japan, Russia and Korea. He has also served as artistic director of Vancouver Opera, musical director of the Australian Opera and musical director of the Sutherland-Williamson Grand Opera Company.
Throughout his illustrious career, Bonynge worked extensively with his late wife, Dame Joan Sutherland, who starred in the role of Euridice when Bonynge conducted at the Viennese premiere of Orfeo ed Euridice in 1967.
As a dedicated music scholar, Bonynge is credited with the revival of many works that were not at the time included in the repertoire, including Haydn’s Orfeo, Rossini’s Sigismondo and Semiramide, Pacini’s Medea, Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, Massenet’s Esclarmonde, Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia and many more. He is credited with the revival of many of opera’s bel canto classics.
Among the 85-year-old’s many accolades, Bonynge was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1977 for his services to music, received the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France in 1989, and was admitted as a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2012 for eminent service to the performing arts.
Maestro Bonynge’s honorary doctorate will be presented by Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence, in recognition of Maestro Bonynge’s many decades of service enriching Australia’s cultural landscape and his ongoing contributions to the arts in reviving forgotten operas.
The Con’s Centenary Festival, which runs until this Sunday, is the second major event celebrating the 100th anniversary and follows a concert held earlier this year at the Sydney Opera House on its official birthday, 6 May 2015.