Lee Blakeley was born in Yorkshire, England. He studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Glasgow University, graduating with the prize for directing. Working extensively in opera and musicals his productions, noted for their visual flair and theatricality, have been seen in theatres and opera houses around the world. In Europe Lee’s work is synonymous with the famous Theatre de Chatelet in Paris and the works of Stephen Sondheim.
His breakthrough production came with A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. Starring Leslie Caron, Lambert Wilson and Greta Schacci. This was the French premiere of a Sondheim musical and led to three further productions of the composer’s work. Each a French premiere and each a hit with both audiences and critics. The second of these productions, SWEENEY TODD, successfully made the jump across the Atlantic, first to Houston Grand Opera where it starred Nathan Gunn and Susan Bullock and then to San Francisco Opera where Stephanie Blythe triumphed in the role of Mrs Lovett. His production of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, won the Syndicate de Critique Prix for design and received a Europe wide TV broadcast garnering further nominations. Three more productions at the Chatelet followed; INTO THE WOODS, THE KING AND I – featuring Susan Graham and Lambert Wilson in Paris and Kate Baldwin an Paolo Montalban in Chicago, and KISS ME KATE a co production with the Grand Theatre in Luxembourg.
These productions secured his place as one of the foremost directors of quality musical theatre working today.
Whilst making waves in France with musicals his opera career has continued to grow in the United States. His US debut was with MADAM BUTTERFLY for the Santa Fe Opera, recently remounted at Los Angeles Opera with Anna Maria Martinez in the title role. This landmark production, noted for its naturalism, led to repeat engagements at the festival with productions of THE PEARL FISHERS, THE GRAND DUCHESSE OF GEROLSTEIN, again starring Susan Graham, and RIGOLETTO with Quinn Kelsey. Other productions in the North America include FALSTAFF at Los Angeles Opera, ORPHEUS AND EURIDICE at Minnesota Opera starring David Daniels, and THE TALES OF HOFFMANN for Canadian Opera Company. Working with Opera Theatre St Louis he directed the American Premiere Handel’s RICHARD THE LIONHEART, which he also co-translated, and directed a new production of MACBETH, both receiving much acclaim.
In the UK he has been concentrating on theatre work and script development. His production of PAT KIRKWOOD IS ANGRY transferred from the Manchester Royal Exchange, to the St James Theatre and then to the Brits off Broadway Festival in New York where it sold out.
New writing has been a core part of his work for the last 17 years. As artistic director of Opera Theatre Europe, he premiered Tobias Picker’s THERESE RAQUIN at the Royal Opera House Linbury Theatre alongside developing contemporary operas, and new site-specific pieces for the ENO Studio and the Covent Garden Festival. He has an on going commitment to training and the development of new talent. In addition to workshops and tutoring at many of the major conservatoires at home and abroad he received a prestigious Winston Churchill Fellowship to study artist development and the culture of Philanthropy in the United States. He worked with the British Council in Macedonia creating a new production of THE TURN OF THE SCREW for the Macedonian Opera’s young artist programme.
Other productions include IL TURCO IN ITALIA Opera Angers e Nantes a co-production with the Grand Theatre Luxembourg, for Scottish Opera the highly acclaimed A NIGHT AT THE CHINESE OPERA (nominated for the TMA Achievement in Opera Award) DIE FLEDERMAUS and THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES (with RSAMD) THE MERRY WIDOW De Vlaamse Opera, RUSALKA Wexford Festival.
He has been an Associate Director for the Royal Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera and English National Opera. Recently he has worked for Glyndebourne Touring Opera, Opera New Zealand, de Vlaamse Opera, `Opéra de Monte Carlo, Lille, Trieste and Tenerife.
In addition to directing he has worked as an actor, teacher, translator, script editor, dramaturg and broadcaster.