Nicholas Cleobury

Nicholas Cleobury is Head of Opera at the Queensland Conservatorium, Brisbane, Artistic Director of Mid-Wales Opera, Principal Conductor of John Armitage Memorial (JAM), Founder Director of Sounds New and Founder Laureate of the Britten Sinfonia.

Nicholas Cleobury has conducted all the major UK orchestras and widely in Europe, Hong Kong, Scandinavia, Singapore, South Africa, USA and beyond. He works regularly for the BBC and Classicfm, has appeared at most British Music Festivals, often at the Proms and made many recordings.

He has conducted numerous opera companies from ENO, Glyndebourne and Opera North to Canadian Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, the Royal Opera Stockholm and extensively for Zurich Opera. He has been Principal Opera Conductor at the Royal Academy of Music and Music Director of Broomhill Opera.

Nicholas Cleobury has made an enormous contribution to the performance and fostering of contemporary music, having worked with many leading ensembles and composers, most notably Sir Michael Tippett, given countless premieres and promoted many young composers.

He is also a specialist choral conductor, having been Assistant Director at the BBC Singers. He has worked with choirs all over the world, from the Swedish and Danish Radio Choirs, to the Berkshire Choral Festival (UK and USA) and Die Konzertisten in Hong Kong and numerous major choirs in the UK, including the Royal and Huddersfield Choral Societies.

He has a particular gift and flair for working with young people and students, as conductor, lecturer and teacher, at most of the UK music colleges, and with British Youth Opera, Jette Parker (ROH), the National Opera Studio, Oxford University Music Faculty, University of Cambridge Faculty of Music and the Southbank Sinfonia.

He is an Honorary RAM and Fellow of Christ Church University Canterbury, MA (Oxon), FRCO and a Trustee of Britten in Oxford, Schola Cantorum of Oxford, Sounds New and Youth Music.


Nicholas Cleobury is to become Head of Opera at the Queensland Conservatorium, Brisbane.

January 2014 saw a brand new production of Handel's' Acis and Galatea with Mid Wales Opera, Brecon Baroque and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Directed by Annilese Miskimmon with Rachel Podger leading, Nicholas Cleobury led a stellar cast and chorus receiving great critical acclaim. (Tour details see

Autumn 2014 saw a major tour of Carmen with Mid Wales Opera. Directed by Jonathan Miller with translation by Rory Bremner and a new orchestration by Stephen McNeff.

In November he conducted the World premiere of Jonathan Dove's For an Unknown Soldier at Portsmouth Grammar School with the London Mozart Players, repeated in Croydon and in March 2015 with the Oxford Bach Choir in the Sheldonian Theatre.

“ extremely skillful reduction by Stephen McNeff, conducted with such precision and flexibility.”

“Nicholas Cleobury made it all work with his spirited cast.”

“A happy collaboration...Cleobury's handling of his forces ensured Handel's score was subtly realised.”

“ There is charm in the playing of Rachel Podger's Brecon Baroque under Nicholas Cleobury's deft direction - I found the show irresistable.”

“The orchestra is superfine. Nicholas Cleobury conducts crisply and with energy.”

“Nicholas Cleobury was the animated musical director of the splendid Brecon Baroque, who played with bite and great commitment throughout.”

Highlights of 2015 included concerts with JAM (Giles Swayne Yonghy-bonghy Bo in London), the World Premiere of Thea Musgrave's Voices of our Ancestors in London and Kent, Fidelio at Opera Omaha in April, concerts with Mid Wales Opera and continued work with their burgeoning Young Artist Programme. He also conducted the revival of Stephen McNeff's Tarka the Otter at the 2 Moors Festival in October.




Nicholas Cleobury's experience with orchestras is extensive. In the UK he has conducted: all the BBC Orchestras; Bournemouth Symphony; Brighton Philharmonic; Britten Sinfonia (Founder Laureate); City of Birmingham Symphony; City of London Sinfonia; English Chamber Orchestra; English String Orchestra; Guildford Philharmonic; Halle Orchestra; London Mozart Players; London Philharmonic; London Symphony; Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment; Orchestra of the Swan (Associate Director); Northern Sinfonia; Oxford Philomusica; Philharmonia; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; Royal Philharmonic; Royal Scottish National Orchestra; RTE Symphony Orchestra, Dublin; Scottish Chamber Orchestra; SouthBank Sinfonia; Ulster Orchestra.

“This concert marked the first appearance of Nicholas Cleobury as Associate Director…given Cleobury’s affinity with English music and the ensemble’s in depth exploration of Tippett, it seemed to auger well for the players. Cleobury elicited a vibrant sound and a real spring to the rhythm.”

He is Founder Artistic Director in 1992 of the Britten Sinfonia, His dedication to this fine ensemble contributed to its international success. Under his direction, Britten Sinfonia performed many outstanding well-received concerts all over East Anglia and throughout the UK and at the BBC Proms.

“The romance (Finzi) revealed Cleobury and the Britten Sinfonia at their sensitive best.”

Nicholas Cleobury made many critically acclaimed CDs with them, including first recordings of Richard Rodney Bennett and Frank Bridge. His Strauss recording with David Pyatt won a Gramophone Award and his Britten Song Cycles with John Mark Ainsley won critical acclaim. The Mozart Clarinet Concerto was voted classicfm's Number 1 Easter Choice. Since 2004 he has held the title of Founder Laureate.

“High praise is due to Cleobury who seems to have found even more nuances in the orchestral parts of all three works than his predecessors.”

“This was music (Beethoven 8th Symphony Queen Elizabeth Hall) of iron sinew, in Cleobury’s hands, fearsomely strong but nimble.”

“Cleobury stamped his mark on Stravinsky’s Symphony in C in a memorable performance. Where some conductors make this neo-classical masterpiece sound dry, Cleobury found the wit and textural clarity and delivered the outer movements with blistering bite.”

He has conducted orchestras across the world including the Albanian Radio/TV Symphony; Aalborg Symphony; Aarhus Symphony; Belgian Chamber; Belgian National; Cape Philharmonic; Copenhagen Philharmonic; Czech Philharmonic; Eastern Cape Philharmonic; Gavle Symphony(Principal Guest); Goteborg Symphony; Gulbenkian Orchestra;, Helsingborg Symphony; Lithuanian Chamber, Helsingborg Symphony, Hong Kong Chamber, Irish Chamber, Malmo Symphony, Macedonian Philharmonic, Norkorping Symphony; Odense Symphony; Orchestra Victoria (Australia); San Remo Symphony; Singapore Symphony; Slovenian Radio; Stockholm Philharmonic; Swedish Radio; Tonhalle Zurich; Turku Symphony; Trondheim Symphony and Winterthur Orchestra.



Nicholas Cleobury is Artistic Director of Mid Wales Opera. His first tour with Verdi's Falstaff was named in the Daily Telegraph as one of the "Top 10 Opera Events of 2010": “for a modestly scaled but crisply executed and entertaining production of Falstaff, a work that even the most celebrated opera houses can’t pull off.”

"All praise to Mid Wales Opera, whose touring version is an absolute delight. …with Nicholas Cleobury conducting a sprightly account of the sublimely mercurial score, this is altogether a treat."

The 2011 tour of Puccini's Madam Butterfly also garnered great critical acclaim:

"It is thanks to Artistic Director and conductor Nicholas Cleobury driving the score forward with a real feel for its detail that Puccini's characterisations begin to shine through."

"MWO's Musical Director, Nicholas Cleobury, led a tight beautifully paced account of the pared-down score."

They toured Don Giovanni in 2012 where he continued to receive critical praise.

“... the strong musical values of the conductor Nicholas Cleobury.”

“... the orchestra achieves wonders under Nicholas Cleobury's well paced direction... Mozart's score is lovingly delivered.”

“MWO's new Music Director is off to a great start: he conducts a treacherous score with distinction. The whole thing is a delight.”

“It is thanks to Artistic Director and conductor Nicholas Cleobury driving the score forward with a real feel for its detail that Puccini's characterisations begin to shine through.”

He has conducted with many opera companies and festivals including: Aldeburgh Festival; Arcal (Paris); British Youth Opera; Camden Festival; Canadian Opera; Chelsea Opera Group; Chicago Opera Theater; English Bach Festival; English National Opera; Flanders Opera; Glyndebourne Festival Opera; Gothenburg Opera; Hamburg Opera; Kent Opera; Malmo Opera; Omaha Opera; Opera 80; Orkney Festival; Stockholm Royal Opera; Two Moors Festival; Welsh National Opera.

He has also conducted extensively at Zurich Opera, where his productions have included: Die Entfuhrung; Le Grand Macabre; Harley (World Premiere); Leonora; Le Vin Herbe; Peter Grimes; Where the wild things are; Die Zauberflote. He has also conducted numerous ballets, including works by Berg, von Bose (World Premiere), Debussy, Glass, Ligeti, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.

He also works regularly at the National Opera Studio, London on contemporary repertoire.

“In the pit Briton Nicholas Cleobury, with a refined ear and sensitive hand-playing of complete transparency and partnership with the joys on stage.”

“Harley succeeded thanks to the magisterial direction of the contemporary music specialist Nicholas Cleobury, leading the Orchestra of Zurich Opera in top form.”



Nicholas Cleobury

Nicholas Cleobury brings a number of special gifts to contemporary music, both as conductor and communicator. He has worked with composers around the world and given countless premieres. In particular, he has worked closely with Richard Rodney Bennett, George Benjamin, Harrison Birtwistle, Jonathan Dove, Jonathan Harvey, Hans Werner Henze, Robin Holloway, Georgy Ligeti, James Macmillan, Colin Matthews, David Matthews, Peter Maxwell Davies, Paul Patterson, Poul Ruders, Giles Swayne, John Tavener, Mark Antony Turnage, John Woolrich and numerous young composers.

"The authoritative playing of the Aquarius Ensemble (Birtwistle “Punch and Judy” at Wien Modern) under Nicholas Cleobury…surely the discovery of Wien Modern."

He has conducted numerous leading contemporary music ensembles including: Aquarius (Founder Conductor); all the BBC Orchestras; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Britten Sinfonia; Die Reihe/Vienna; Guildhall School of Music; London Sinfonietta; Manson Ensemble – Royal Academy of Music; Opera Nova/Zurich. In 1997 he founded Sounds New and over 10 years as Artistic Director it developed into a major force in contemporary music. He is now Principal Conductor and Founder Laureate.

“…Nicholas Cleobury (with the Southbank Sinfonia) was an informative and passionate compere and exceptional conductor.”



“A highly sympathetic reading (Durufle Requiem – BBC Concert Orchestra & BBC Singers), taking full advantage of the resonant cathedral acoustic.”

Nicholas Cleobury has conducted a wealth of choirs and choruses including the BBC Singers, City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, in repertoire ranging from early music to some of today's most challenging and notable contemporary vocal scores.

He is Principal Conductor of JAM ( where he has conducted numerous premieres including works by Judith Bingham, Philip Cashian, Jonathan Dove, Adam Gorb, John McCabe, Pau Mealor and Julian Philips, as well numerous new works from the submission scheme. He works with the BBC Singers, the choir of Selwyn College Cambridge, Onyx Brass and the OAE.

He has conducted many leading chamber choirs including: Aalborg Philharmonic Choir; BBC Singers (Regular guest and Assistant Director 1977 – 1980); Danish Radio Choir; English Bach Festival Choir; Guildford Camerata; Netherlands Chamber Choir; Netherlands Radio Choir; New Israel Vocal Ensemble; Schola Cantorum of Oxford (Director 1973 – 1977); Swedish Radio Choir.

He has conducted numerous choruses in the UK, including: Belfast Philharmonic; Brighton Philharmonic; Bournemouth Symphony; CBSO; Edinburgh Choral Union; Halle Choir; Huddersfield Choral Society; Leicester Philharmonic; London Choral Society; Northern Sinfonia; Norwich Festival Choir; Royal Choral Society and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir.

He regularly conducts for the Berkshire Choral Festival (USA and UK) and many other choirs Including Malmo Symphony Chorus; Melbourne Chorale; Odense Chorus; Orfeon Donosstiara/San Sebastian; Sonderborg Chorus; Soweto and Springs Township Choirs.

“Cleobury inspired the forces to even greater things in a vivid Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast: bright brass, terrific woodwinds, keen strings and a choir in splendid voice. What a performance! What an achievement!”

Nicholas Cleobury has been Principal Conductor of the Oxford Bach Choir since 1997. Under his guidance, the Choir has continued its tradition of performing not only well-known repertoire but also of supporting new music. Among these new works are notably Nicholas Maw's Hymnus (recorded for ASV), a performance of David Matthews' Vespers, the world premiere of Martin Butler's Two Rivers and in 2010 the world premiere of Bob Chilcott's Requiem.

“Conductor Nicholas Cleobury's impeccable direction was evident throughout. The Oxford Bach Choir and English Chamber Orchestra were on top form.”

“From the very start of the Bach Choir’s performance of Handel’s Messiah, I felt as though I were hearing this music almost for the first time. The whole piece sparkled with clarity and freshness as though it had been taken apart, scrubbed and reassembled. Nicholas Cleobury directed tirelessly, with barely a detail escaping his attention. All performers contributed hugely. The English Chamber Orchestra played with characteristic brilliance. Their phrasing had the clarity and lightness that this style of music requires, but the use of modern instruments gave the sounds warmth and fullness.”

In November 2012 he gave the World Premiere of Roxanna Panufnik’s Song of Names with the London Mozart Players and Portsmouth Grammar School.

“The choir and LMP under Nicholas Cleobury displayed fervour, finesse and flair in catching every different shade of mood.”

The end of 2012 also saw concerts with the Cape Philharmonic including Beethoven 9 and December in Denmark (Aalborg, Britten and Copland) and Odense (Childhood of Christ).

TOP OF PAGENicholas Cleobury


“Nicholas Cleobury’s account of this prodigious orchestral showpiece (Elliott Carter’s Concerto for Orchestra) connected up part to whole at every point and conveyed a sense of the work’s terrific overall sweep (Royal Academy of Music Orchestra).”

Work with student and youth orchestras is an important part of Nicholas Cleobury's work. He has conducted the Australian Youth Orchestra, the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, the Northern Junior Philharmonic, the Hampshire, Leicester and Merseyside Youth Orchestras and also the Elizabeth College Summer Orchestral Course in Guernsey. Also the Birmingham Conservatoire, Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama New Music Ensemble, Jette Parker and National Opera Studio, extensively at the Royal Academy of Music and at the Royal College of Music and the National Conservatoire of Scotland.

In the Spring of 2013, Nicholas was appointed Musician in Residence at Ibstock Place School in Roehampton, London. His work with the School will include lectures and talks with Pre-U Music pupils, workshops with the School Symphony Orchestra, Choir, and masterclasses with Music Scholars.

Since 2004 he has enjoyed a special relationship with the Southbank Sinfonia, particularly working with them on classical style and contemporary music, with such composers as Richard Rodney Bennett, Peter Maxwell Davies, James Macmillan and Mark Anthony Turnage

In 2006 he was Artistic Director of Mozart Now (part of the Salzburg Mozart Ways), a year-long programme of events celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth and his visit to Canterbury in 1765.

“...the real achievement was musical (Tippett’s The Knot Garden). Conducted with conspicuous organizational skill by Cleobury, the points of genius in the score were well served by both the orchestra and the cast of young professionals (Royal Academy of Music Orchestra).”