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Richard Alan Bonynge, CBE AO (born 29 September 1930) is an Australian conductor and pianist.

Bonynge (pronounced ) was born in Sydneymarker and educated at Sydney Boys High School before studying piano at the Royal College of Musicmarker in London. He gave up his music scholarship, continuing his private piano studies, and became a coach for singers. One of these was Joan Sutherland, whom he had accompanied in Australia. They soon married and became a duo, first (until 1962) doing recitals. When the current conductor for a recital of operatic arias became ill, Bonynge stepped in and, from that time on, he conducted virtually all of his wife's performances.

His debut as staged opera conductor took place in 1963 in Vancouvermarker, where he conducted Faust. The same year, also in Vancouver, he conducted Norma for the first time, starring Sutherland and Marilyn Horne. He also conducted the English Chamber Orchestra in many recordings.

By doing some research and reading up on Massenet and Italian bel canto composers, Richard Bonynge discovered Massenet's own statement about his opera Esclarmonde being his "best achievement." This filled Bonynge with curiosity, even more because Esclarmonde had sunken almost into total oblivion and had hardly been performed at all since the end of the 19th century. He obtained a tattered vocal score of it in Paris, and subsequently bought the full orchestral score from an auction in New York City. Although his wife, initially, was skeptical about it, Richard Bonynge became an enthusiast of the work and eventually convinced her that she should perform the role of Esclarmonde herself. And so the San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera premieres of it took place in 1974 and 1976 respectively.

In 1977 he was the founding Music Director of Vancouver Opera Orchestra (at its creation), when he conducted Le roi de Lahore staged there (in which also his wife took part).

He made his Metropolitan Opera debut on 12 December 1966, and his last performance there was on 6 April 1991. Most of those performances he conducted there between 1966 and 1987 were with his wife singing. In the beginning, his speciality (until early 1970s) was music of 18th and early 19th century, mostly in bel canto repertoire (Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti), then gradually added also middle Verdi (La traviata, Rigoletto, Il trovatore), Offenbach (Les Contes d'Hoffmann), then also Massenet (Esclarmonde and Werther). He has also recorded each of Tchaikovsky's three ballets – Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker.

Since 2007, he conducted a series of performances in a few opera houses around the U.S. (Florida Grand Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre), and now is mostly involved with the Opera Australia company (Lucia di Lammermoor in August 2008, and in 2006 for Opera Queensland; I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Melbournemarker and Sydney in middle of 2009).

Honours

Richard Bonynge was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to music in 1977. In 1983, he was made Officer of the Order of Australia, and in 1989 Commandeur of the L'Ordre national du Mérite. In 2009, Bonynge was awarded the 2009 Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award.

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