Robert Dean studied piano, horn, composition, and conducting as a Junior Exhibitioner at London’s Royal College of Music, and went on to gain his music degree at Durham University, where he was the first student to act as Assistant Chorus Master to the University Chorus. He continued his studies at The Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and the National Opera Studio, London as both repetiteur and baritone, and there followed a highly successful nine-year career as a baritone, singing major roles with all the principal opera houses in the UK.
During this time he was assistant and accompanist for Sir Simon Rattle during his tenure as principal conductor of The London Choral Society (1978-1983), and on retiring as a singer in 1987 he decided to focus on conducting, making his debut in the Italian premieres of Beethoven’s Leonora and Bach’s Temistocle at the Batignano Festival that same year. The following year he joined Scottish Opera as Staff Conductor and in 1990 was appointed Head of Music, over the next three years conducting more than 100 opera and concert performances for them. Whilst in Glasgow he was a regular guest conductor for The John Currie Singers and for The Good Shepherd Chorus, conducting, amongst others, Messiah, The Creation, and Bach’s B Minor Mass.
Since 1993 Robert Dean has enjoyed a busy freelance conducting schedule, particularly in the opera world, and also with choirs such as the world-renowned Philharmonia Chorus. In April 1998 his contribution to the Philharmonia Chorus was recognised with his appointment as their Artistic Director, and until he left them in 2007 he conducted them in concerts including Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Puccini’s Messa di Gloria with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Messiah with the London Mozart Players, Handel’s Dixit Dominus with London Musici, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, Rachmaninov’s Vespers and he Dream of Gerontius.
Additionally, Robert Dean has prepared The Philharmonia Chorus for a variety of choral works including Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 for Christoph von Dohnanyi, Sir Simon Rattle, and Sir Charles Mackerras, and Missa Solemnis for Sir Roger Norrington. He prepared Verdi’s Requiem for Valery Gergiev and Riccardo Muti, Brahms’ Requiem for Daniele Gatti, Cherubini’s Mass in D for Riccardo Muti, Elijah for Wolfgang Sawallisch and Mahler’s Symphony No.2 for Vladimir Ashkenazy. As part of his Berlioz Odysssey year in 2000, Sir Colin Davis conducted a memorable televised Proms performance of the Grande Messe des Morts for which Dean prepared the Philharmonia Chorus and an additional 450 singers from the Guildhall School of Music and the Paris Conservatoire. His skill in dealing with large choral forces was also evident in his preparation of the joint choruses of the Philharmonia, Royal Choral Society, and the London Philharmonic Choir for a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No.8 conducted by the late Giuseppe Sinopoli.
“‘Help, Lord!’ they cried three times, making it clear from the very first that chorus master Robert Dean had raised them to a pitch of full-throated splendour, the kind that blasts one’s socks off. Rarely on the concert platform does a choir’s director get a chance to acknowledge the applause alone, but the conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch rightly made it happen.” (Geoff Brown, The Times on Mendelssohn’s Elijah)
He has also prepared the chorus for concert performances of opera, including Donizetti’s Linda di Chamonix for Mark Elder and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Puccini’s Turandot in the new completion by Berio for Leonard Slatkin and the BBC Symphony orchestra, Wagner’s Lohengrin for Donald Runnicles, and Weber’s Der Freischutz for Sir Charles Mackerras at the 2004 Edinburgh Festival. He remains active in the world of opera, and appearances include My Lord, My Umbrella for Opera Theatre Company in Dublin, The Magic Flute, Maria Stuarda, Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Albert Herring in the USA, Il Trovatore for Opera South in Ireland, Lakme, Romeo et Juliette, The Pearl Fishers, Madam Butterfly, La Boheme, Tosca, La Traviata, The Flying Dutchman and Falstaff with Calgary Opera, and Cosi fan Tutte and Iolanthe at Grange Park Opera. For Opera Holland Park he has conducted La Boheme, La Fille du Regiment, Don Giovanni and Il Barbiere di Siviglia and he has recently returned from Canada having conducted the latter opera to open Edmonton Opera’s 2014/15 season.
In 2009 Robert was appointed Vocal Consultant for Bristol Choral Society, giving a series of termly workshops. He is also much in demand as a voice teacher, as a Professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and as a vocal coach at the National Opera Studio. He gives Vocal Masterclasses around the UK, USA, and Canada, and also in Denmark, where he has held the appointment of Visiting Guest Professor of Singing at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen. He is proving to be a popular guest conductor, and as a workshop clinician uses his own background as an opera singer to help with the technical aspects of choral singing and energise choirs into more vivacious performance.