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Richard Bonynge receives Honorary Doctorate from the University of Sydney

12 October 2015
The famed conductor honoured on the night of his gala performance for the Con Centenary Festival

One of Australia’s greatest conductors and pianists, Maestro Richard Bonynge AC CBE, has been recognised for his long-serving dedication to musical excellence with an honorary doctorate.

Maestro Richard Bonynge AC CBE received his honorary doctorate from Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence at the Con's Centenary Festival gala event. Photo: Prudence Upton

The famed conductor received the honour on the night he took to the stage at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (SCM), as special guest conductor and music director of Haydn’s Orfeo ed Euridice.

The performance was the gala event of the Con’s Centenary Festival - a week-long series of events featuring students, staff and guest alumni performers to celebrate 100 years of the Con in 2015.

“We are extremely honoured to have Maestro Bonynge return to Australia to take part in the Con’s centenary celebrations. It is truly fitting that such a well-recognised international music talent received an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney at this sold-out, gala event led by him," said Professor Anna Reid, Dean and Principal (Acting), the University of Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music.

It will be a very special concert for both Maestro Bonynge and the Con in its centenary year.
Professor Anna Reid

Maestro Bonynge led a cast of star soloists including opera sensation Greta Bradman and SCM alumni Amelia Farrugia, Brad Cooper, Damien Whiteley and Simon Lobelson, as well as over 200 musicians from the SCM Symphony Orchestra and SCM Chamber Choir.

A prodigious talent, Richard Bonynge won a scholarship to study piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 1942 at the age of 12, going on to perform the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at age 14.

Since making his conducting debut in Rome in 1962, Bonynge has conducted in some of the world’s top opera houses across Europe, the Americas, Australia, Japan, Russia and Korea. He has also served as artistic director of Vancouver Opera, musical director of the Australian Opera and musical director of the Sutherland-Williamson Grand Opera Company.

Throughout his illustrious career, Bonynge worked extensively with his late wife, the iconic Australian coloratura soprano Dame Joan Sutherland, who starred in the role of Euridice when Bonynge conducted at the Viennese premiere of Orfeo ed Euridice in 1967.

As a dedicated music scholar, Bonynge is credited with the revival of many works that were not at the time included in the repertoire, including Haydn’s Orfeo, Rossini’s Sigismondo and Semiramide, Pacini’s Medea, Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, Massenet's Esclarmonde, Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia and many more.

Among the 85-year-old’s many accolades, Bonynge was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1977 for his services to music, received the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France in 1989, and was admitted as a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2012 for eminent service to the performing arts.

Maestro Bonynge’s honorary doctorate was presented by Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence, in recognition of Maestro Bonynge’s many decades of service enriching Australia’s cultural landscape and his ongoing contributions to the arts in reviving forgotten operas.

The Con’s Centenary Festival is the second major event celebrating the 100th anniversary and follows a concert held earlier this year at the Sydney Opera House on its official birthday, 6 May 2015.

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