John Cox

Honorary Fellow

John Cox (1955, English Language and Literature) retired in 2007 from a distinguished global career as a theatre director devoted mainly to the staging of opera.

While at the Hall John was very active with the John Oldham Society, notably with a production of Ibsen’s Ghosts, starring Patrick Garland as Oswald. On the wider university scene he was Steward of OUDS and participated in ETC productions on the Edinburgh Fringe. He also wrote reviews for Isis and Oxford Opinion. However, it was for the OU Opera Club at the Town Hall that he did his most noteworthy work, staging Verdi’s Ernani in 1958 and, the following year the British premieres of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortileges.

In 1959 he began his professional career as an assistant director at Glyndebourne, the summer opera festival. For the next ten years he freelanced in opera, plays and TV before being appointed Director of Productions at Glyndebourne, a position which he held for the next decade. He directed operas by, inter alia, Mozart, Rossini, Haydn, a celebrated Rake’s Progress (Stravinsky), designed by David Hockney and six romantic comedies by Richard Strauss, with whose work he claims a strong affinity. His 1973 interpretation of Capriccio, Strauss’s last opera, has been seen in many versions worldwide, most recently at the Met, New York.

From 1981-86 he was steering Scottish Opera through some existential rough water but the period included his British premiere  of the completed Lulu by Alban Berg. From 1988-94 he was the principal stage director at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

As a freelance John has been active worldwide in houses as large as La Scala Milan and the Metropolitan New York, and as small as Drottningholm, Sweden and Monte Carlo, Monaco; in places as unlikely as Teheran and Honolulu; in standard repertoire – Traviata, in Salzburg – and in rarities – Pizzetti’s Murder in the Cathedral in Turin, Barber’s Vanessa in Strasbourg and Los Angeles.

He enjoyed a fruitful relationship late in life with Garsington Opera and a long-running, deeply satisfying one with Opera Australia at the awe-inspiring Sydney Opera House. He also did a number of productions for the Santa Fe Opera, for whom he co-wrote the libretto for Oscar, music by Theo Morrison, premiered in 2013.

Recent productions include Fidelio and Figaro for Garsington, Ariadne in Chicago, and Cosi fan Tutte in Dallas. The 2017/18 season saw revivals of Thais (Massenet) at the Met and Cosi for the Lyric, Chicago. At 83 he is now attempting retirement.

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