Obituary: Sir Andrew Davis Dies at 80

By Francisco Salazar

On April 20, 2024, Sir Andrew Davis died at the age of 80.

According to reports, he died of Leukemia for which he had been diagnosed last year.

Born in Ashridge, England on Feb. 2, 1944, Davis grew up in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, and in Watford where he attended Watford Boys’ Grammar School. During his time at the school, he studied classics and began playing the organ.

Following his school years, he went to the Royal College of Music and King’s College where he continued studying the organ. He would then go to Rome to study conducting.

In 1970 he obtained his first major post as associate conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and in 1975 he became Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where he would remain until 1988 and become the TSO’s Conductor Laureate.

In 1973 Davis made his debut with the Glyndebourne Festival and in 1988 he became the Music Director. He remained with the company until 2000. With the festival, he went on to conduct a variety of repertoire including “The Queen of Spades,” “Peter Grimes,” “Ermione,” “The Rake’s Progress,” “Le Comte Ory,” “The Makropulos Case,” and “Billy Budd.”

Davis was also the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Chief Conductor where he restored the tradition of conducting the Last Night of The Proms. He was known for his speeches at the Last Night Night of Proms which addressed the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, Mother Teresa, and Sir Georg Solti. He remained with the BBC Symphony until 2000 and took the title of Conductor Laureate.

In 2000, the conductor became the Principal Conductor of the Lyric Opera of Chicago where he conducted the company’s first Ring Cycle, and first Chicago production of Michael Tippett’s “The Midsummer Marriage.” He went on to lead 690 opera performances with the company in a vast repertoire from composers Berg, Berlioz, Bizet, Britten, Dvořák, Gilbert and Sullivan, Gounod, Janáček, Lehár, López, Massenet, Mozart, Mussorgsky, Poulenc, Puccini, Rossini, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Wagner, and Weinberg. He ended his tenure at the close of the 2020–2021 season.

Other positions that Davis held in his career included Music Advisor to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Throughout his career, Davis also recorded several works from Massenet, Berlioz, Bliss, Elgar, Finzi, Grainger, Delius, Ives, Holst, and Handel.

In 1992 he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire and during the the 1999 New Year Honours List he was appointed a Knight Bachelor.

You can read more about Davis in an interview with OperaWire regarding the Ring Cycle.