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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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David Parker (?–1996)

by W. L. Hoffman

The sudden death in Cairns last month of singer and teacher David Parker will shock and sadden his many associates in Canberra, and in particular the considerable number of students with whom he worked over more than 15 years at the ANU's Canberra School of Music (CSM).

Welsh born, his vocal potential took him to the Royal Academy of Music in London, and he made his professional debut with the great Kirsten Flagstad in a production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas at London's Mermaid Theatre. Over the next few years he sang regularly throughout Britain in opera and oratorio, and made a successful recital tour of South Africa.

He had already achieved a notable reputation as an opera tenor before joining The Australian Opera, singing Pinkerton in the 1969 production of Madame Butterfly. At that time the AO opened its season each year in Canberra, so his first performance in Australia was in the Canberra Theatre on 11 February 1969. During that season he also sang Grigori in Boris Godounov and Gustavus in The Masked Ball.

In 1976 he came to Canberra as head of CSM's voice department, bringing his wide experience as operatic artist and recitalist to his work of training young voices. He was an exceptionally fine teacher, as shown by the number of outstanding young singers who have come through his studio.

After the demise of Canberra Opera in 1984 he and his wife, Australian pianist and conductor Marie van Hove, established the ANU Opera Workshop to provide opera experience for local singers, mounting small-scale but professionally executed productions of baroque operas in the ANU Arts Centre.

Later, as the School of Music Opera Workshop, there were productions with full orchestra of La Boheme, Die Fledermaus and The Bartered Bride in Llewellyn Hall, leading to the foundation of Canberra City Opera. With no consistent funding this was a struggle, but with a loyal group of students and former students, and with community support, he continued to provide an operatic platform for young singers. And his Canberra City Opera still continues the work he started.

Knowing him first as an AO principal, and then more personally when for 10 years we were both at CSM, I can attest to David's professional expertise, his great enthusiasm, and his unique ability to draw the best from his students. He was a man of bounding energy, not always the easiest to get along with, but always with a bubbling sense of humour and complete dedication to his profession.

He made notable contributions to music in Canberra, and there will be so many in the community in addition to his many former students who will mourn his passing.

Original publication

Citation details

W. L. Hoffman, 'Parker, David (?–1996)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


June, 1996
Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.