Richard Divall OBE is a prominent Australian composer, conductor and musicologist. His repertoire ranges from his interest in early Australian colonial music, which he has championed through his editions, performances and many premieres of Australian music theatre works, to a specialist knowledge of 18th century Maltese music.
He is a committed editor of opera from the Baroque to the Romantic periods, has conducted more than 140 operas, held the first full-time musical directorship of the Victorian State Opera and was Principal Resident Conductor of Opera Australia for five years.
Born in Sydney on 9 December 1945, Divall studied part-time at the NSW State Conservatorium whilst working as a music producer with the Australian Broadcasting Commission for ten years from 1961. He learned conducting at the Conservatorium under its renowned Australian-born conductor Joseph Post. Subsequently, he studied with Sir Charles Mackerras, Wolfgang Wagner, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Sir Reginald Goodall.
Divall was appointed to the Victorian State Opera in 1972 on the recommendation of Dame Joan Hammond and remained at its helm 'till 1995. Credited with inspiring the growth of the State Opera, he was named Victoria's Conductor Laureate in 1995 on the eve of his appointment to Opera Australia.
Richard Divall has conducted operas at four Adelaide Festivals, has performed with all the Australian State Opera Companies and the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra and regularly conducts with the Australian Ballet. Internationally, he has worked in the UK for the British Broadcasting Commission and conducted in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, China - on the mainland and in Hong Kong - and New Zealand.
Regarded as a specialist in Handel, his eclectic operatic repertoire extends through the operas of Mozart, Monteverdi, Gluck and Rameau. He has conducted Lohengin, Otello, Turandot, Aida and Tannhauser. Ballet's he has conducted range from The Nutcracker and Madame Butterfly to Anna Karenina and The Sentimental Bloke.
His pioneering work in Australian music include the orchestrations for more than forty colonial works and the co-editing of the complete musical works of Henry Handel Richardson. He composed the score for the film of Henry Handel Richardson's literary classic, "The Getting of Wisdom". He chairs the Marshall Hall Trust which sponsors and supports the publication of early Australian music.
Richard Divall was awarded an OBE in 1981 for Services to Music. He won a Churchill scholarship in 1975 and a Bayreuth scholarship for operatic studies in Germany in 1990. In 1992 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Monash University and in 2003 an Honorary Doctorate from the Australian Catholic University. In 2005 he received the Bernard Heinze Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to music in Australia.
His prolific interests include a passion for historical research and medical history. Divall was made a Commendatore al Merito by the Order of Malta in 1989 for his historical research, including his work in medieval and crusader hospital history. In 1996 he was the Tracy Maund Medical Research Fellow at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne. He has entered the religious profession as a Knight of Malta, an ancient order devoted to humanitarian and charitable work.
Currently, he is Associate Professor and a Principal Fellow at the Faculty of Music and Centre for Studies in Australian Music at the University of Melbourne, and Patron of Melbourne's classical community radio station.