Distinguished British music conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife Joan have taken their own lives at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland, their family announced on Tuesday.
Downes, 85, had lived with near blindness for the past 15 years and was going deaf, while his 74-year-old wife, a former ballet dancer, hDownes, 85, had lived with near blindness for the past 15 years and was going deaf, while his 74-year-old wife, a former ballet dancer, had terminal cancer.ad terminal cancer.
"He could not go on living without her. They were absolutely devoted to each," said Edward Downes' agent Jonathan Groves.
The family said maestro Downes, former principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic and a revered figure in the world of opera, travelled with his wife to Zurich where they ended their lives at a clinic run by the well-known assisted suicide group Dignitas.
A statement, released by their son and daughter, Caractacus and Boudicca, said the couple died July 10 "under circumstances of their own choosing".
"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 personally," the statement said.
Downes, widely regarded as one of Britain's finest conductors, opened the famous Sydney Opera House in 1973.