Born and educated in Scotland, Alexander Oliver was accepted as a clarinettist at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. After one year of studies to be a clarinettist , it was very clear that his future would lie in the world of opera as a singer and he followed the rest of his education in Scotland with this goal in view.
In 1966, he won the coveted Richard Tauber Scholarship, which would take him to Vienna to pursue his studies with the world famous Mozart tenor Anto
n Dermota. While still studying in Vienna he was engaged by the Wiener Kamer Oper where he made his debut in 1967. In the same year, he was engaged to sing Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and Monostatos in Die Zauberflóte on the very first ever National Tour with the newly founded Glyndebourne Touring Opera. His debut for the Glyndebourne Festival followed in 1970 when he created a major role in Nicholas Maws’opera The Rising of the Moon which won him considerable acclaim from the British press and within the year, he made debuts for Scottish Opera, Welsh National Opera, English National Opera and The Royal Opera.
In 1972 he was invited to sing Arnalta in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the Netherlands Opera, directed by Filippo Sanjust and Gustav Leonhardt—-this particular role was to become one of his most successful and brought him to most of the major European opera houses including Zúrich Opera in the now legendary Monteverdi cycle conducted by Niklaus Harnoncourt and directed by Jean Pierre Ponnelle. As well as being seen in Berlin, Munich ,Edinburgh ,Hamburg, Vienna and La Scala Milan, this production was recorded and filmed in 1979. Oliver also sang Arnalta in various productions in Paris, Brussels and Toronto.
Another Monteverdi role with which he was to become particularly associated was Iro in “Il Ritorno d’Úlisse in Patria which he sang in Glyndebourne for the first time in 1974 and made his final appearances in the role with the Netherlands Opera in 1998 when it was filmed for DVD.
His repertoire was extra-ordinarily broad and encompassed music from the 17th century right through to the 21st century. He became associated with the music of Benjamin Britten and gave many performances all over Europe of a number of the Britten tenor roles, notably Albert Herring,Bob Boles and The Rector in Peter Grimes,The Mad Woman in Curlew River, Aschenbach in Death in Venice and Francis Flute and Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Along side his operatic appearances, Oliver was a popular figure on the concert and recital platforms of the world and he gave many distinguished performances in cities such as Houston, Chicago, Washington, New York, Madrid, Paris , London, Vienna, Kóln, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Reykjavik, Oslo etc etc!
In 1999, He decided that he would very much like to work with young artists and try to help in forming the careers of other people and was offered the position of Artistiek Leider of the Dutch National Opera Academy. From this point on, the greater part of his energies and focus were devoted to this work, although he still continued to make occasional appearances at Netherlands Opera La Monnaie/De Munt and a large number of concert appearances.
While being Artistiek leider of DNOA he was very happy to have the chance to direct a number of productions, including Albert Herring, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Die Zauberflóte and Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites. He was also Director of Opera at Dartington International Summer School in Devon UK and from 2004 until 2010 he directed six different operas, including Madama Butterfly, The Rake’s Progress, Barbiere di Siviglia, Evgeny Onegin and Le Nozze di Figaro.
Oliver has also been a regular participant in various juries for competitions, including the IVC S’Hertogenbosch, the Kathleen Ferrier Prize in London and the Margaret Dick Award in Glasgow ( this was poignant as Margaret Dick was his first singing teacher!) and the Wigmore Hall Young Songmakers Prize in London.
Alongside all these activities, Alexander Oliver has still found the time to develop a new “string to his bow”in the shape of the narrator parts in works such as Gúrrelieder of Schoenberg which he performed last season in unforgettable performances with Reinbert de Leeuw conducting and a number of performances of Schoenberg’s Ode to Napoleon which he has recorded and performed with Christian Karlsen and the New European Ensemble.
He has also given Masterclasses in Tilburg (Fontys Academy) Leeuwen (Lemmens Instituut), Brussels (Royal Conservatoire) Toronto (Canadian Opera Company Young Artists Programme) London (Kathleen Ferrier Award and during the IVC Concours in 's-Hertogenbosch (2004).