Like so many conductors today, Ivor Bolton has established a parallel career as a soloist, in his case as a harpsichordist. On the podium, he is better known in the opera house, particularly for his incisive interpretations of Baroque operas by Handel, Purcell, and others, as well as for his Mozart (Le nozze di Figaro; Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Bellini (I Capuleti e i Montecchi), and Rossini. His orchestral repertory, though also divulging a bias for early music, extends into the Romantic and modern periods, encompassing works by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Franz Berwald, Bruckner, Malcolm Arnold, and James MacMillan. As a harpsichordist, Bolton has garnered acclaim particularly for his performances (and recording) of harpsichord concertos by J.S. Bach. Bolton has amassed a sizable discography spread over several labels, including DG, RCA, ASV, Teldec, Oehms, Farao Records, RPO (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), and others.
Ivor Bolton was born in Blackrod (Lancashire), England. He studied music at Cambridge University (Clare College) and at the Royal College of Music in London. After graduation he added a further year of study, this at the National Opera Studio, also in London. During that year he earned his first important post, conductor of the chamber choir Schola Cantorum of Oxford (University).
In 1982 Bolton began a long association with the Glyndebourne Festival, eventually becoming music director of the company's touring opera in 1992, for five seasons. In 1984 Bolton founded his own instrumental ensemble, the St. James Baroque Players. After more than 20 years under his leadership the group has grown in stature and produced a number of popular recordings, including the 1996 Charpentier Te Deum on Teldec.
Bolton served as music director for one season (1991-1992) with the English Touring Opera. During his five-year tenure at the Glyndebourne Touring Opera, Bolton made several important operatic debuts, including at the Bavarian State Opera (1994) and Covent Garden (1995). And he was busy in the strictly instrumental world, too, serving as principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (1994-1996).
In the new century Bolton has been just as active: since 2004 he has been conductor of the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg, and has been busy at the major operatic venues, including the 2004 Salzburg Festival (with Anna Netrebko singing Giulietta in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi). Among Bolton's recordings is the 2007 CD of Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera on Deutsche Grammophon. Bolton also expanded his opera repertoire by conducting Britten's Billy Budd during the 2010-11 season at De Nederlandse Opera.