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Donald Sturrock


Donald Sturrock was born in 1961, and grew up in England and South America. After reading Modern History at Oxford University, he joined BBC Television's Music and Arts Department where he worked as writer, producer and director until 1992.

At the BBC he worked with many of the world's leading musicians, including Solti, von Karajan, Richter, Menuhin, Gergiev and Tennstedt, making a number of highly-acclaimed music documentaries with them. These included After the Storm, an intimate and revealing portrait of the final years of the composer Bela Bartok; Six Foot Cinderella, a fantasy about the life of the operatic bass Robert Lloyd; and Words Return to Music, an exploration of the life, music and philosophy of the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke.

In 1992, he wrote and directed The Graham Greene Trilogy for BBC2's ARENA series. This three-hour programme, narrated by Sir Alec Guinness, and first broadcast in 1993, received outstanding reviews. It was described by David Gritten in the Daily Telegraph as a "towering achievement... British television at its absolute peak". The Broadcasting Writers Guild voted it Best Documentary of 1993. Sturrock has also written and directed a four-part BBC documentary series, Placido Domingo's Tales at the Opera, including films about the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Wiener Staatsoper and the LA Opera, as well as The Art of Singing and the Grammy award nominated The Art of Piano for Ideale Audience and Warner Home Video.

Sturrock has a long relationship with the writing of Roald Dahl. In 1985, he made a film about Dahl and after the writer’s death, Dahl’s widow, Felicity, invited him to commission a series of new concert works for young people based on her husband’s works. There are now fourteen of these. In 1995 Sturrock directed an award-winning television version of Little Red Riding Hood with Danny DeVito, Ian Holm and Julie Walters. Three years later, he directed the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s opera Fantastic Mr. Fox at the Los Angeles Opera. He has also directed plays at the Windsor Festival and translated Robert Thomas’s detective comedy Eight Women for the Southwark Playhouse. 

He has written six opera librettos. These include The Golden Ticket, an opera based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with music by Peter Ash. His other librettos include Fantastic Mr. Fox (Tobias Picker), Keepers of the Night (Ash), and Letters of A Love Betrayed (Eleanor Alberga) which was presented by Music Theatre Wales at the Royal Opera House in 2009. Rain Dance with music by Stuart Hancock followed in 2010. His most recent opera libretto was The Cutlass Crew, which was premiered by W11 Opera in 2017.

In September 2010, Storyteller, Sturrock's authorised biography of Roald Dahl, was published simultaneously by Simon and Schuster in the U.S.A and HarperCollins in the U.K. It was longlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Spear’s Biography of the Year Award. Sturrock also edited Love from Boy, an edition of Roald Dahl’s letters to his mother. It was published for the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth in 2016.