Philip Parr

Philip Parr

Stage Director

opera, theatre and festivals
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Philip Parr was born in New York City and educated in Australia at Sydney University and the University of New South Wales.

Philip came to Europe, having begun his career with the Australian Opera in Sydney as Actor, Stage Manager and Assistant Director. As well as working in opera, he played and sang with The Renaissance Players, Australia’s leading early music performing group. He was a principal dancer with The Early Dance Consort, which researched and performed Renaissance and Baroque dance for opera, and dance performances across Australia.

Based initially in London, Philip worked at The Royal Opera as a stage manager and in the Staff Directing team. He then became Special Projects Director for The Garden Venture – the new opera unit of Covent Garden, running contemporary opera education programmes with partners such as Birmingham Rep Theatre and Dartington International Summer School. The Garden Venture commissioned over thirty new works and was the starting point for many leading composers and librettists. Alongside this work, Philip was working as a freelance opera director with the smaller touring and regional companies.

As a director of opera and theatre, his productions have been seen around the world.

Opera productions include Massenet’s Manon for Opera South in Portsmouth, Madame Butterfly and Cosi fan tutte for the Barbados Festival, Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto for the National Trust, Tosca at Holland Park, Kurt Weill’s Street Scene at the Birmingham Conservatoire, the world premiere of Helen of Braemore by Eddie McGuire which toured extensively in Scotland and Scandinavia, Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea in the St. Magnus and Dornoch cathedrals, Cosi fan Tutte, La Boheme and La Traviata in the President’s Palace in Malta and Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda for the Sion Festival in Switzerland. He is a specialist in small scale and unusual repertoire – particularly new work, early intermezzi and the comedies of Offenbach. Philip has been a staff director at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, The Bayerisches Staatsoper and at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden

In the 1990’s he led the team that conceived and developed Spitalfields Market Opera, a new 500 seat chamber opera house built within the shell of the old Spitalfields Fruit Market. As well as producing its own productions, SMO was intended as a home for the fast developing small scale opera sector across the UK.As Artistic Director, he planned programmes and ran the building organisationally, collaborating on fundraising and overall management.

When the project came to an end, he stepped into academia lecturing in performance at Cumbria College of Art and Design, In 2000 he was appointed director of the Swaledale Festival in Yorkshire with a brief to develop a small regional music festival into an organisation with a national and international profile. During his tenure, he trebled turnover and audiences, gained regular public funded status and substantial corporate support, built links and exchanges with a range of international colleagues, commissioned 20 new works and presented over 60 world premieres, which caused the Arts Council to describe the festival as ‘iconic…an acclaimed arts festival’. Exciting young British artists were discovered at the early stages of their careers. Festival programming broadened out to include jazz, world music, and other areas of cross over. Internationally Swaledale gained enduring links with artists and organisations in Europe – particularly Scandinavia and Estonia – and in Australia, America and Asia.

As director of the Bath Shakespeare Festival he programmed striking international productions of Shakespeare and Shakespeare inspired theatre, dance and music, alongside an active programme of education work, masterclasses, and outdoor performance. Further festival curation has followed, usually for one off events. In 2015 Philip programmed theatre and dance, and directed a new Anglo Korean collaboration, for a one off festival of Korean arts – Kingston Welcomes Korea – at the Rose Theatre as well as programming theatre, dance, film and public engagement activities for the Bloomsbury Festival in central London. For the latter, he was asked to curate a programme of new theatre – and brought nearly 20 young companies into the schedule.

Currently, alongside a wide ranging freelance practice as director of theatre, opera and festivals, Philip is Artistic Director of Parrabbola, who make large scale community plays and events in the UK and across Europe. In the theatre Philip has made a particular reputation in large scale site specific performance. Most recently he directed a site specific, promenade performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with 80 actors, for the 2018 Craiova International Shakespeare Festival in Romania. Previous  community Shakespeare’s include Romeo and Juliet (Romania) The Winters Tale (Poland and Czech Republic) Pericles (Poland).

He is co-Director and Programmer of the York International Shakespeare Festival, with a determination to bring exciting and innovative interpretations of Shakespeare to York, alongside the best independent UK productions. He is a founding council member and Secretary of the European Shakespeare Festivals network where he collaborates with colleagues across Europe to create shared programming and initiatives.

Philip has recently been appointed co-Artistic Director of Opera Restor’d, who present pre 19
century English Opera.
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