Blakeley, Lee

Richard Lee Blakeley (16 August 1971 – 5 August 2017) was a British opera and theatre director.

Born in Mirfield, West Yorkshire to Carol and Richard Blakeley,[2][3] Blakeley was educated at The Mirfield Free Grammar School.[4] He subsequently studied theatre at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, beginning at age 18. He also studied at the University of Glasgow.[5] He returned to the Royal Scottish Academy to study theatre directing. There, he was accidentally assigned as director of a student production of Gustav Holst's The Wandering Scholar. The resulting success initiated his career interest in opera direction.[4]

Whilst at the Royal Scottish Academy, Blakeley had worked with David McVicar on the latter's production of Handel's Semele. Blakeley later worked at English National Opera (ENO), and re-connected with McVicar, who made Blakeley his assistant. He assisted McVicar at the Royal Opera House on its 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte and its 2004 production of Faust.[3], and served as a regular revival director of these productions at Covent Garden.[6]

In 2001, Blakeley directed the first dramatic staging of Handel's cantata Clori, Tirst e Fileno, at the gay nightclub Heaven in London.[4] Other notable productions as director in his own right included the 2006 European premiere of Tobias Picker's Therese Raquin,[6] his self-described 'breakout' production of Rusalka at Wexford Festival Opera in 2007,[3] and the 2008 Scottish Opera production of Judith Weir's A Night at the Chinese Opera.[7]

At the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Blakeley directed the French premiere of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music (2010), and subsequent productions of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (2011), and of Sunday in the Park with George (2013), and Into the Woods (2014). His directorial work in theatre included Pat Kirkwood Is Angry.[4]

Blakeley received a Winston Churchill Traveling Fellowship in 2007. This took him to many of the major opera houses of North America to study Lyric Artist Development and the Cultivation of Philanthropy for Opera. In North America, his directing credits included Madama Butterfly (2010), The Pearl Fishers (2012),[8] The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein (2013) and Rigoletto (2015) for Santa Fe Opera,[9], Orfeo ed Euridice for Minnesota Opera, and Les Contes D'Hoffmann for Canadian Opera Company.[10][11] For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, he directed the North American premiere staging of Handel's Riccardo Primo (performed in English as Richard the Lionheart, 2015)[12] and the company's first staging of Verdi's Macbeth (2016).[13]

In private life, Blakeley was married to Jonathan Foster. The couple resided in London. Survivors include his parents Carol and Richard, his sister Lisa, and his spouse.[2]


  1. ^ "Lee Blakeley, opera director – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 8 August 2017. Retrieved 9 August 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Director Lee Blakeley Passes Away Age 45". Broadway World. 2017-08-07. Retrieved 2017-08-09. 
  3. ^ a b c F Paul Driscoll (2017-08-07). "Lee Blakeley, 45, One of the Most Admired Opera and Theater Directors of his Generation, has Died". Opera News. Retrieved 2017-08-09. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Lee Blakeley, opera director – obituary". Telgraph. 2017-08-08. Retrieved 2017-08-09. 
  5. ^ Katy Wright (2017-08-07). "Lee Blakeley (1971–2017)". Opera Now. Retrieved 2017-08-09. 
  6. ^ a b "Remembering Lee Blakeley (1971–2017)" (Press release). Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. 7 August 2017. Retrieved 2017-08-09. 
  7. ^ Andrew Clements (2008-04-14). "A Night at the Chinese Opera (4/5 stars) - Theatre Royal, Glasgow". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-08-09. 
  8. ^ James M Keller (2012-07-01). "Pearl Fishers review: Santa Fe Opera basks in Bizet". Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 2017-08-15. 
  9. ^ Anthony Tommasini (2010-07-26). "A Child Bride, Craving More Than a Glimpse of an American Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  10. ^ Tamara Bernstein (2012-04-11). "Beautiful singing, but Tales of Hoffman are really musical sugar". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2017-08-15. 
  11. ^ Neil Cooper (2017-08-14). "Lee Blakeley - Opera and theatre director, Born August 16 1971; died August 5 2017". The Herald. Retrieved 2017-08-15. 
  12. ^ Sarah Bryan Miller (2015-06-08). "Opera review: A well-sung 'Richard the Lionheart' at OTSL". Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-08-09. 
  13. ^ Sarah Bryan Miller (2016-05-29). "Macbeth at Opera Theatre of St. Louis is powerful drama". Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-08-09.