Author: By Katie Dawson, Press Association
Sir Edward Downes, 85, was almost blind when he and his 74-year-old wife Joan
travelled to Switzerland to end their lives, a family statement released to
the BBC said.
Sir Edward, who was born in Birmingham, had a long and distinguished career,
working with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Opera House.
He joined the Royal Opera House in 1952 and remained a company member for 17
He became the music director of the Australian Opera in 1970 and conducted the
first performance in the Sydney Opera House.
Sir Edward received a CBE in 1986 and was knighted in 1991.
The statement, released by their son and daughter, Caractacus and Boudicca,
said the couple died on July 10 “under circumstances of their own choosing”
after a struggle with serious health problems.
It said: “After 54 happy years together they decided to end their own lives
rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems.
“They died peacefully and under circumstances of their own choosing, with the
help of the Swiss organisation Dignitas in Zurich.
“Our father, who was 85 years old, almost blind and increasingly deaf, had a
long, vigorous and distinguished career as a conductor.
“Our mother, who was 74, started her career as a ballet dancer and
subsequently worked as a choreographer and TV producer before dedicating the
last years of her life to working as our father’s personal assistant.
“They both lived life to the full and considered themselves to be extremely
lucky to have lived such rewarding lives, both professionally and
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