Born and educated in Scotland, Alexander Oliver graduated from The Royal Scottish Conservatoire in Glasgow in 1966. He won the coveted Richard Tauber Prize in London and was thus able to pursue his studies in Vienna under the tutelage of renowned tenor Anton Dermota. His debut for the Wiener Kammer Oper quickly followed and he then became a principal artist with the then newly formed Glyndebourne Touring Opera where he sang a number of important roles including Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Ferrando in Così fan Tutte, Pedrillo in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail. His debut at the Glyndebourne Festival followed in 1971 and in the same year he made his debut at the Royal Opera in Covent Garden, London. His international debut came in 1972, when he undertook the role of Arnalta in L’Incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi. This took place at the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam and he was to become closely associated with this company and he performed many roles there, the last of them being in 2004. He was to repeat his success as Arnalta at the Opera in Zürich under the baton of Nikolaus Harnoncourt and directed by Jean Pierre Ponnelle. This became a legendary production and was filmed and recorded, as well as being seen in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Vienna, La Scala in Milan and at the Edinburgh Festival.
Another of the Monteverdi roles with which he was to become closely associated was Iro in Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria. He first performed this at Glyndebourne in 1974 and has since sung the role many times – in particular at the Netherlands Opera in the spectacular production by Pierre Audi.
In 1999 Alexander decided to concentrate the greater part of his time and energy in the education and development of young singers and, with this in mind, accepted the post of Artistic Leader of the Dutch National Opera Academy where he is still active today.
In his future plans it is interesting to note that he will direct L’Incoronazione di Poppea for the Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican Hall in London next season with Richard Egarr conducting.