Sir Alexander Gibson was a pivotal figure in the history of music performance in Scotland.
A graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (as the Scottish National Academy of Music and Royal Scottish Academy of Music), Gibson became an internationally famed conductor.
Not long after graduation Gibson was appointed Assistant Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, an impressive appointment for a musician still in his twenties. One of the orchestra at the time fondly remembered ‘he was the only conductor I knew who conducted from the ear.’
Despite a stint as musical director at Saddler’s Wells and principal conductor at the Scottish National Orchestra (later the Royal Scottish National Orchestra or RSNO), it was opera that was Sir Alec’s (as he was known) real passion, and in 1962 he launched the flagship national opera company: Scottish Opera. He remained its musical director until 1986.
The Alexander Gibson Opera School, part of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, was completed in 1998, a few years after the maestro’s death. It was the first and only purpose built opera school in the UK at the time, and continued Gibson’s legacy in promoting the artform.
This bronze bust of Gibson was donated to the Archives & Collections by his widow, Lady Veronica Gibson, in the 1990s. It is one of a pair sculpted by noted Scottish artist and Glasgow School of Art graduate Archie Forrest. The other is now housed in Glasgow’s Theatre Royal, home of Gibson’s creation, Scottish Opera.