Leo Quayle

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Leo Quayle (1918-2005). South Africa orchestral conductor.


Born in Pretoria on 11 December 1918, he died Durban on 19 May 2005.


He took up a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1937. He returned to South Africa to serve in the UDF Entertainment Unit for a while during the war, returning to England after the war to complete his studies. He then worked in film music. In 1948 he joined Sadler’s Wells for two years as chorus master and assistant conductor, and in that first year he conducted Faust. He was at Welsh National Opera as Music Director 1952-3, introducing Nabucco as well as the premiere of Menna (Arwel Hughes 1953). He spent the 1953 season as Chorus Master at Glyndebourne and then returned to Sadler’s Wells as Principal Conductor. He spent several more seasons in London before moving to South Africa, first as senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University, then as head of the music department at the University of the Orange Free State. In 1964 he moved to Pretoria as director of opera and music for the newly formed PACT (Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal) orchestra.

He retired from PACT in 1983, spending two years at Calgary Opera and a season with the Bochum orchestra. He returned to South Africa as guest conductor with PACT Ballet.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

For PACT he conducted a range of works including Tosca with Marie Collier and Tito Gobbi (in 1971). He also conducted Don Pasquale, Carmen and Don Giovanni. In 1976 he added La Bohème and La forza del destino, and in the years up to 1983 Otello, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Rigoletto, Aïda, Turandot, Madama Butterfly, Un Ballo in Maschera and Il Trovatore.

1960 – Die Zauberflöte for South African Opera Federation

1964 – Il trovatore for PACT

1966 – Die Fledermaus for PACT

1966 – Il trovatore for PACT

1966 – Prodaná nevěsta (The Bartered Bride) for PACT

1968 – Madama Butterfly for PACT, The Lion in Winter

1970 - King John

1972 – Don Giovanni for PACT

1973 – Le nozze di Figaro for PACT

1974 – Lucia di Lammermoor for PACT

1974 – Norma for PACT

1975 – Le nozze di Figaro for PACT, The Great Waltz

1976 – La bohème for PACT

1976 – Jenůfa for NAPAC

1985 - Showboat for PACT

Macbeth (PACT), 84 Charing Cross Road, The Dresser, The Company of Four (Market Theatre), Beecham with Michael Atkinson, Ron Smerzcak, Caryl Brahms, Ned Sherrin. Musical sequences: 1984.


Tucker, 1997.

Website of Opera of Scotland [1].

Alexandra Xenia Sabina Mossolow[2]. 2003. The career of South African soprano Nellie du Toit, born 1929. Unpublished Masters thesis. University of Stellenbosch.[3]

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