Sydney Opera House

Richard Mills


Richard Mills is deservedly one of Australia’s most sought after composers and music directors and is now in the forefront of senior Australian composers. He has pursued a diverse career as a composer, conductor and artistic director which has seen him working with almost all of the nation’s music organisations.    

Richard held the post of Artistic Director of the West Australian Opera from 1997 – 2012. In 2008 he was Musica Viva’s Composer of the Year, and from 2002 – 2008 held the post of Director of the Australian Music Project for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, he works as a freelance conductor throughout Australia and overseas and in 2007/8 was awarded an Ian Potter Foundation Fellowship. In 2013 he assumes the position of Artistic Director of Victorian Opera.

Some of Richard’s most recent conducting engagements include Die Fledermaus, La sonnambula and Elektra (West Australian Opera), Proms Concert (Canberra Symphony Orchestra), The Love of the Nightingale (Opera Australia), Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, premiering his new Organ Concerto and his continuing association with the Australian Composers School at the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Richard Mills conducts all the major orchestras in Australia and regularly performs in major Australian Festivals. He made his debut as an opera conductor at Opera Queensland with The Magic Flute. Now, through his work with West Australian Opera, he has a large repertoire of standard works, as well as a reputation for conducting contemporary opera and his own compositions. 

He is one of the few Australian composers who have been commissioned to write operas for main stage performances in Australia, and whose works have been performed in a number of seasons. Victorian State Opera commissioned Richard to write an opera of Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, which premiered in Melbourne in 1996, and received Sydney performances in the Opera Australia season in 1999. Batavia was commissioned by Opera Australia and premiered at the Melbourne Festival in 2001 to great critical acclaim, consequentlyreceiving a number of Green Room and Helpmann Awards including Best Opera and Best New Australian Work.  

In 2004, he conducted a revival of Batavia in Perth, when it was presented as a joint production between the Perth International Arts Festival, Opera Australia and West Australian Opera. It was mounted again in the Opera Australia Sydney winter season in 2006.   

Richard’s third opera, The Love of the Nightingale, premiered at the 2007 UWA Perth International Festival conducted by Richard with performances in Melbourne for Victorian Opera and Brisbane for Opera Queensland that year. This opera received several nominations for 2007 Helpmann Awards including Best New Australian Work, Best Opera and Best Music Direction and received four Awards including that of Best Music Direction for Richard, and was presented by Opera Australia in Sydney in 2011.

Richard Mills’ most recent compositions include a score for the Australian Ballet and his Passion According to St. Mark which premiered around Australia in 2009.  His song cycle Songlines of the Heart’s Desire received its European premiere at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival and his Organ Concerto was premiered with Calvin Bowman and the Melbourne Symphony in August  2011. 

Other notable conducting engagements have included La Cenerentola for Opera Australia and Norma for West Australian Opera, the world premiere performance of Peter Sculthorpe’s Requiem with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at the Adelaide Festival, the world

premiere of his double concerto for clarinet and violin with the Taipei Symphony Orchestra and a concert performance of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde with the Australian Youth Orchestra for the Queensland Music Festival, which won a Helpmann Award for Best Classical Concert in 2005.

Richard’s music has found wide acceptance and popularity with musicians and the concert-going public, and his works are regularly performed throughout the world. Compositions range from Concerto for Violin and Viola, Flute Concerto commissioned by James Galway, Earth Poem-Sky for Aboriginal Dancers, Singers, electronic sound and the Darwin Symphony, (also given at the 1998 Adelaide Festival), Soundscapes for Percussion and Orchestra most recently performed by Evelyn Glennie at the City of Birmingham Symphony Proms and also filmed with Miss Glennie and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, music for the ballet Snugglepot and Cuddlepie premiered by The Australian Ballet and later recorded for CD and Fantastic Pantomimes written for the Melbourne Symphony’s tour of Japan.

Commissions for the Sydney Symphony include Tenebrae, Emblems and Totemic Journeys to celebrate Australia’s Centenary of Federation. Requiem Diptych was commissioned and premiered by the Chicago Chamber Musicians Brass in 2001. His symphonic work for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, The Little Mermaid, was premiered in August 2005.  During his year as Musica Viva’s featured composer, three of his String Quartets were performed by the Goldner, Takács and Jerusalem Quartets and a song cycle, Songlines of the Heart’s Desire was premiered by Peter Coleman-Wright, Cheryl Barker and Piers Lane. Most recently Richard has composed a number of song cycles as part of the Ian Potter Foundation Fellowship.

His CD recording Richard Mills Orchestral Works with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra has become a best seller on the ABC Classics label. His three volume CD of the film music of Franz Waxman with the same orchestra was awarded a Preis der Deutschen Schallplatten Kritik in 1992, and he has an extensive discography of some twenty CD releases with the Australian symphony orchestras. He has recently released a CD of his major orchestral works with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Richard Mills continues a high level of involvement in the community through such projects as commissions for the 1982 Commonwealth Games, the 2000 Olympic Games, the Australian Bicentenary re-orchestration of Charles Williams’ Majestic Fanfare (the ABC news theme) and the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.  As an academic he has been Lecturer in Composition and conducting at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and Visiting Fellow, University of Melbourne School of Music.  He is currently a Senior Fellow, Faculty of Music, University of Melbourne, Adjunct Professor of Music, University of Queensland and Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Music, University of Western Australia. In 2009/2010 Richard Mills was the director of the Symphony Australia Composer Development Program, run in collaboration with Orchestra Victoria.


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