Kungliga Operan

Michael Cavanagh is dead


Michael Cavanagh, former Opera Director/Artistic Director at the Royal Swedish Opera 2021–2023, has passed away after a period of illness. He was 62 years old.

Royal Swedish Opera

–It is with deep sadness that we have received the news that Michael Cavanagh has left us. With his open and generous personality, Michael was a valued friend and colleague to everyone at the Royal Swedish Opera. Already in his first productions, we got to know his sharp artistic eye but also his warm and positive persona. As Artistic Director of the Opera Section from 2021, he was instrumental in developing the Opera's culture and direction. Michael had a unique ability to see all the employees around him and spread joy and energy. The Royal Swedish Opera and the opera world have lost a unique creative force and a dear friend, says Fredrik Lindgren, CEO of the Royal Swedish Opera.

At the turn of the year 2023–2024, Michael Cavanagh left his position due to health and family reasons, after having been on sick leave during the autumn when he was replaced by Ellen Lamm as acting opera director.

It was after working on around 150 productions at some 30 opera houses in the US, Canada and Europe that Michael Cavanagh was engaged as Opera Director at the Royal Swedish Opera in mid-2021, when he took over from Birgitta Svendén. Michael was part of the management of the Royal Swedish Opera when current CEO Fredrik Lindgren took office in the summer of 2022.

At the Royal Swedish Opera, Michael directed John Adam’s Nixon in China in 2016, Verdi's Aida in 2018 and Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades (concertante) and set the concept for Mozart's Don Giovanni, all in 2023. About, for example, Sweeney Todd, who will return to the Opera's repertoire this autumn, Dagens Nyheter wrote in connection with the premiere: "It is a privilege to experience Michael Cavanagh's solid, well-thought-out and sonorous staging at the Royal Swedish Opera."

Prior to that, Cavanagh had directed several productions at the San Francisco Opera, including the Mozart-Da Ponte trilogy and the new production of Lucia di Lammermoor (with Diana Damrau), as well as several operas in Vancouver, including John Adams' Nixon in China (as part of the 2010 Winter Olympics) and, to name a few, opera houses at the Royal Opera House in London, Opera Philadelphia, L'Opéra de Montréal and in Winnipeg.  which was also his hometown.

In Michael Cavanagh's extensive career, he has also been artistic director of the Edmonton Opera, producer and director of the Opera on the Avalon in St. John, Newfoundland, written librettos for several chamber operas and often engaged as a dramaturge and director of new works. He was also a lecturer and lecturer in opera directing at the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University in Ontario, Canada.

He found his own way to the opera through children's and youth choirs. "The first three or four operas I saw I was myself part of," said Michael, who went on to train as a singer. While studying at the Hamburg Academy of Music, he spent many evenings at the city's opera house and discovered his vocation as a director. The way to get there was through practical experience, rather than a formal education. At the beginning of his career, he produced his own performances and occasionally also appeared as a singer.

He summed up his artistic work as follows: "I am a custodian of an ancient art form. But I am also a citizen of today. My job is to make the operas not only appealing, but also make it possible for a modern audience to embrace all the complexity that the operas have to tell us today."



About the Royal Swedish Opera

The Royal Swedish Opera is Sweden’s National theatre for opera and ballet, founded by  King Gustav III in 1773. The Opera house in central Stockholm, next to the Royal castle, is the home of the Royal Swedish Ballet, Sweden's only classical ballet company and also the Royal Swedish Orchestra, one of the worlds oldest orchestras founded in 1526.

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