David Pountney became internationally known through his production of Katya Kabanova at the 1972 Wexford Festival. Between 1975 and 1980, he was Director of Productions for Scottish Opera. Productions there featured a Janáček cycle in collaboration with Welsh National Opera.
He directed the world premiere of David Blake’s Toussaint in 1977 (ENO) and went on to become ENO’s Director of Productions in 1980, directing over 20 operas, and took a leading part in making ENO a powerful engine of radical theatrical experiment.
He has directed over 20 world premieres, including three by Peter Maxwell Davies for which he also wrote the libretto, and has translated operas into English from Russian, Czech, German and Italian. He continues to be an enthusiastic libretto writer. As a freelance director from 1992 he worked regularly in Zurich, at the Vienna State Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper as well as opera houses in America and Japan. He received a Janáček medal for his Janáček cycle in Wales and Scotland, and a Martinů medal for his productions of Julietta and Greek Passion (Opera North and Bregenz Festival). His productions have twice won an Olivier award. Recent engagements include Kommilitonen, his third opera written in collaboration with Peter Maxwell Davies (Royal Academy of Music and US premiere at the Juilliard School, New York); a new Philip Glass opera, Spüren der Verirrten, for the opening of a new opera house in Linz which won the Schickaneder Prize for best opera production in 2013, and Die Zauberflöte for the lake stage in Bregenz, where he was Intendant from 2003 to 13.
Since 2011 he has been Artistic Director of Welsh National Opera, where he has directed Berg’s Lulu, Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, Mosè in Egitto, Pelléas et Mélisande, In Parenthesis (world premiere), Elena Langer’s opera Figaro gets a Divorce (world premiere), and Un Forza di Destino – the start of a Verdi trilogy, and Prokofiev’s War and Peace. Future plans include two new productions at La Scala Milan, and he is currently working on a new Ring Cycle for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
He is a CBE, a Chevalier in the French Ordre des Arts et Lettres, has the Cavalier’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland and was awarded the Ehrenkreuz des Bundes Oesterreich in 2014. (photo: Richard Hubert Smith)