Christopher Doig CNZM, OBE, MA (Hons) 1948-2011

Opera singer, sportsman and administrator extraordinaire, Christopher Doig was born and educated in Christchurch. He attended Christchurch Boys High School and the University of Canterbury, graduating with a Masters degree in English in 1969.

Early years

A keen and talented sportsman, his ambitions did not initially include singing but his talent proved so great that it was impossible to ignore.

He started his career teaching English and French at Auckland Grammar (and playing senior hockey.) He won the Mobil Song Quest in 1972 and this was followed by a QEII grant which allowed him to attend the Vienna Music Academy. After graduation he won the prestigious Hugo Wolf Lieder Contest and this lead to work as a senior tenor at the Vienna State Opera. He spent 10 years singing in the major opera houses of Europe and at such festivals as Salzburg and Vienna. His mastery of the German operatic repertoire was considered world class.

Returning to New Zealand

In 1984 he returned to New Zealand and took up the position of Director of the Christchurch Arts Centre where he turned his formidable talents to administration. He proved as successful at this as he had been as a performer. At the same time he was also instrumental in the launch of the Canterbury Opera and performed in its first and highly successful, performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute.

Directing the International Festival of the Arts

In 1988 he moved on to direct the International Festival of the Arts in Wellington which he turned from a loss making venture into a major financial and artistic success. He introduced opera to it, starting with Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg and then Salome, two of his favourite operas. He also introduced a focus on Māori culture. He is remembered by his colleagues there, not just as a successful administrator, but as a mentor who helped them into careers in the field. In addition he was Chair of the Arts Council of NZ and played a crucial role in sponsorship and business development for the NZSO.

Cricket administrator

In 1995 he retired from singing and took up the position of CEO of NZ Cricket. Again he is remembered as being instrumental in a revival of its fortunes. Also again he was active in many other sporting organisations at the same time. For example he contributed to the foundation of the Cricket Academy and High Performance Centre at Lincoln University.

In 2007 he resigned to found the Southern Opera after the failure of Canterbury Opera.


His awards included the Green Award in 1992 for his performance in as Herod in Australian Opera’s Salome and an OBE also in 1992. An honorary Doctor of Social Science degree by Lincoln University followed in 2008 and he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2011.

Final years

Christopher Doig was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. Following the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch he arranged for Placido Domingo and Katherine Jenkins to sing at a fundraiser to help re-establish the Court Theatre. The concert took place a week before his death.

The Christopher Doig Foundation to foster future leaders was launched shortly before his death.

He died on 13 October 2011 at the age of 63. A memorial service at which the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra played and his children and granddaughter sang, was held at the CBS Arena.

Further reading