The Directors

Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Artistic Director

John Eliot Gardiner by Sim Canetty-ClarkeFounder and artistic director of the Monteverdi Choir, the English Baroque Soloists and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, John Eliot Gardiner is one of the most versatile conductors of our time.

He appears regularly with leading symphony orchestras such as the LSO, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Royal Concertgebouw, Bayerischer Rundfunk and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Formerly artistic director of the Opéra de Lyon (1983-88) and chef fondateur of its orchestra, the centre of his opera projects in France moved at first to the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris with Gluck’s Orphée and Alceste, Weber’s Oberon, Verdi’s Falstaff and most notably with Berlioz’s Les Troyens in 2003, and then to the Opéra Comique where he conducted new productions of Carmen, Pelléas et Mélisande, Chabrier’s L’Etoile, and the Weber-Berlioz Le Freyschütz with the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.

Acknowledged as a key figure in the early music revival of the past five decades, he has led his own ensembles in a number of ambitious large-scale tours, including a year-long Bach Cantata Pilgrimage to celebrate the 250th year of the composer’s death in the millennium year. Two of Gardiner’s ensembles celebrated momentous anniversaries in 2014: with the Monteverdi Choir he returned to King’s College, Cambridge to perform Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, exactly fifty years to the day after their inaugural concert in the famous chapel.

The 25th anniversary of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique was marked by the filming of a BBC TV documentary on Beethoven and their first visit to Latin America, and culminated in a celebratory European tour. The two ensembles came together in August for a BBC Prom performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, widely acclaimed and hailed by one critic as ‘the concert of the year’.

The extent of Gardiner’s repertoire is illustrated by over 250 recordings for major record companies and by numerous international awards including the Gramophone’s Special Achievement Award for live recordings of the complete church cantatas of JS Bach by Soli Deo Gloria.

In recognition of his work, Sir John Eliot Gardiner has received several international prizes, and honorary doctorates from the University of Cambridge, the University of Lyon, the New England Conservatory of Music, the University of Pavia and the University of St Andrews. He is an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, an Honorary Fellow of King’s College, London, of the British Academy and of King’s College, Cambridge. In 2008 he received the prestigious Royal Academy of Music Bach Prize. Gardiner was made Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 2011 and was given the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2005. In the UK, he was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1990 and awarded a knighthood for his services to music in the 1998 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

In 2013, following the publication of his long-awaited book on Bach, Music in the Castle of Heaven (Allen Lane), he won the Critics’ Circle’s Outstanding Musician award. In 2014 Gardiner became the first ever President of the Bach Archive in Leipzig. He became the inaugural Christoph Wolff Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Harvard University in 2014/15 and has recently been awarded the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Prize. 

Elsa Rooke, Stage Director

Elsa RookeBorn and bred in Paris, stage-director and drama teacher Elsa Rooke completed a PhD in Literature and Music on 20th century opera at the Sorbonne. Invited to publish papers and give talks on this subject, both in France and in England, she also translated novels, essays and opera librettos from English and Italian into French.

Trained by drama coach Alain Garichot (École de l’Opéra de Paris), she has worked as stage-manager, assistant director, dramaturge and director throughout Europe, taught acting to young singers (Jeunes Voix du Rhin, William Christie’s Académie des Arts Florissants, Hautes Écoles de Musique de Lausanne et de Genève), and was appointed Director of one of France’s major National Drama Schools (Saint-Étienne).

A long-term collaborator with Adrian Noble, she has revived many opera productions for him over the past 15 years from New York to Moscow.

She also worked in partnership with Gwenaël Morin on Peter Handke’s Introspection (Théâtre de la Bastille, Paris) and on four plays by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, in which she also performed (Théâtre du Point du Jour, Lyon).

She directed the European Premières of both Dominic Argento’s Postcard from Morocco, and Conrad Susa & Anne Sexton’s Transformations for the Opéra de Lausanne. Other credits as stage-director include productions for the Opéra National de Bordeaux, Opéra National de Lyon, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Opéra de Genève… (The Turn of the Screw, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Cenerentola, Idomeneo, Hansel und Gretel, Dialogues des Carmélites, Comédie sur le Pont…).

More recently, she wrote the libretto in English, French and German for a new opera, based on the life and works of Annemarie Schwarzenbach: Le Ruisseau Noir, composed by Guy-François Leuenberger. The production, which she also directed, was commissioned by the Haute École de Musique de Genève, and conducted by Michael Wendeberg (Théâtre du Grütli, Geneva).