Sir Peter Jonas

Sir Peter Jonas has led the Bayerische Staatsoper as Staatsintendant from September 1, 1993 to July 31, 2006. In this and previous positions he has been an advocate for populist opera with the highest artistic standard and has also championed the cause of contemporary composers throughout his professional life.

Sir Peter was born in 1946 in London. After attending the Benedictine Worth School in Sussex he read English Literature at the University of Sussex for his first degree. During his student years he worked as an extra and stagehand at Glyndebourne Festival Opera and, as a postgraduate, went on to study Opera and Music History first at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and then at the Royal College of Music in London, finally spending one year postgraduate study at the Eastman School of Music Rochester New York USA.

In 1974 Sir Peter was appointed assistant to Sir Georg Solti, Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and, in 1976, promoted by the Orchestra to be its Director of Artistic Administration - a post he held for nearly a decade working with the world's leading conductors, singers and concert artists as well as composers. In 1984 Sir Peter was named as General Director of the English National Opera succeeding the Earl of Harewood. His tenure, starting in 1985, saw this company's international status enhanced with an expansion of the repertory and a series of acclaimed and award-winning productions playing to the broadest possible public. One landmark was the company's historic tour to the, then, Soviet Union in 1990, another was his securing of the freehold of the Coliseum, the company's theatre, for the nation, thus assuring a stable future for the company. Also during his tenure ENO embarked on a series of New Opera Commissions from composers with seven world premières in eight years. During Sir Peter‘s time at ENO he was identified as a key spokesman for the arts in the cultural milieu in Britain enabling him to advocate the aims of accessibility and quality so central to the mission of opera today.

Sir Peter was appointed to the Bavarian State Opera in 1991 to be Staatsintendant (General Director) from 1993 succeeding the conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch. The Bavarian State Opera is one of the oldest and distinguished Opera Companies in the world founded in 1653 and inhabiting the National Theatre in Munich. He is the first British Intendant of the Staatsoper and the first British Intendant of any major German speaking Opera House. In 2001 Sir Peter was elected by his Intendant colleagues to become chairman of the “Deutsche Opernkonferenz” the association of all German speaking opera houses and other major European houses succeeding the late
Prof. Götz Friedrich in this position and he held this post until 2005.

Sir Peter is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and in 1989 was made a fellow of the Royal College of Music by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. On New Year's day 1993 he was created Commander of the British Empire by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the Arts and knighted on New Year’s day 2000. In July 1994 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Music by the University of Sussex. In 2001 Sir Peter was awarded the “Bayerische Verdienstorden” (Bavarian distinguished service cross) and the Bavarian constitutional medal. The City of Munich awarded Sir Peter its Prize for Culture in 2003.

Apart from opera, theatre and the visual arts his passions were 20th century architecture, Old Master paintings, long distance walking, the contemporary cinema and cricket.

It is reported that Sir Peter Jonas, the former artistic and general director of the Bavarian State Opera, after a long struggle with cancer died on April 22nd 2020 in Munich.



Julia Glesner, biographer of Sir Peter Jonas, speaks about the work and last days of Sir Peter Jonas at the memorial concert. With moving words, she pays tribute to him and his love for opera. You can now read the text of the speech again here or download it as a PDF.