English conductor Mark Elder has achieved wide acclaim in the realm of opera, but has also generally devoted an equal share of his career to orchestral work. He perhaps made his strongest impression at the English National Opera, where he began conducting regularly from 1974, leaving as music director in 1993. He has also conducted at Glyndebourne, Covent Garden, the Sydney Opera House, the Chicago Lyric Opera, and other important operatic venues. In concert he has led the London Mozart Players, BBC Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and Hallé Orchestra. His repertory is broad in both the operatic and orchestral realms: though he has favored Verdi in the opera house, he has led performances of Wagner (Die Meistersinger; Parsifal), Busoni (Doktor Faust), Stravinsky (The Rake's Progress), and modern composers like David Blake (Toussaint). His orchestral choices include many standards, while taking in works by modern British composers like George Benjamin, Nicholas Maw, and Jonathan Harvey. Elder has made numerous recordings for a variety of labels, including Sony, Chandos, ASV, and Hyperion.
Elder was born in Hexham, England, on June 2, 1947. As a youth he divulged talent both as a singer and instrumentalist, serving as a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral and as the first-chair bassoonist in the National Youth Orchestra. He studied music at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and was later mentored by renowned British conductor and musicologist Edward Downes. Elder worked briefly in minor capacities at Glyndeboune and Covent Garden before serving as a regular conductor at the Sydney Opera House from 1972-1974. He returned to England in 1974 to serve as a regular conductor at the ENO. In 1979 he was appointed director there, and by that time he was also heavily ensconced in orchestral conducting, largely in England.
During his 15 years as ENO director, Elder conducted the company in numerous highly acclaimed productions and led successful tours to the U.S., Russia, and other parts of Europe. During his ENO tenure he also held conducting posts with the London Mozart Players (1980-1983) and the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1982-1985).
From 1992 to 1995 he guest-conducted the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and in 2000 began serving as music director of the Hallé Orchestra. Among Elder's more successful recordings are his English-language version of Verdi's Rigoletto on Chandos, issued in 2000, and his 2004 recording of Elgar's Symphony No. 2 on ASV. Opera Rara, the label committed to forgotten or neglected, 19th century operas, named Elder as artistic director in the spring of 2011 to help guide its endeavors. Elder was knighted in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours.