Richard Divall (1945–2017) was born in Sydney and educated at Manly Boys High School and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He later went overseas and studied conducting with Sir Charles Mackerras, Wolfgang Wagner, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Sir Reginald Goodell. In 1969 he began work as a music producer with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, before embarking on his long career as an opera conductor. He was Music Director of the Queensland Opera (1971), Musical Director of the Victorian State Opera (1972–95) and Principal Resident Conductor of the Australian Opera (1996–2001). He was appointed Associate Professor of Music at the University of Melbourne in 1991 and from 2000 to 2005 he was Senior Associate in the Centre for Australian Music Studies at the University of Melbourne.
Divall is a conductor, composer and a musicologist. He has conducted over 120 operas in many countries. In 1984 he conducted Don Carlos in the opening opera performance at the Melbourne Arts Centre. Throughout his career he has been active in conducting and performing colonial music and his orchestrations include over 40 colonial works and the complete songs of Puccini. He has edited music by Isaac Nathan, Carl Linger, G.W. Marshall-Hall, Henry Handel Richardson, Frederick Septimus Kelly, Fritz Hart and other Australian composers.
In 2002 Divall donated his music collection to the Library under the Cultural Gifts Program.
The Divall Collection can be divided into the following five groupings:
• Music, mainly operatic, in printed, photostat or manuscript form, with modifications and markings by Divall. They include full scores, sets of parts and fragments. Among the composers represented are Monteverdi, Handel, Rameau, Bellini, Pergolesi, Rossini, Offenbach, Verdi, Bizet and Wagner.
• General opera music, in printed or photostat form, including full scores, vocal scores and sets of orchestral parts. Among the composers are Monteverdi, Pergolesi, Mozart, Gluck, Rossini, Offenbach, Gounod, Bizet, Wagner, Verdi, Berg and Tippett.
• Australian music transcribed and edited by Divall, in manuscript, printout and photostat form. The composers include Dom Salvado, Carl Linger, Isaac Nathan, Henry Marsh, Stephen Hale Marsh, G.W. Torrance, F. Ellard, Frederick Septimus Kelly and Ross Edwards.
• General Australian music in printed or photostat form. The composers represented include Alfred Hill, George Tibbits, Larry Sitsky, Peter Sculthorpe, Richard Meale, Barry Conyngham, Graham Koehne, Andrew Schultz and Kevin Purcell. There are also albums containing piano pieces and musical magazines and anthologies of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
• Miscellaneous works. This grouping consists of scores of orchestral music, programs, theses, correspondence and personal documents. The composers include Bach, Heugel, Weber, Beethoven, Frank, Liszt, Grieg, Vaughan Williams, Prokofiev, Cowie and Maxwell Davies. Other material comprises a program of the 1924 Melba–Williamson opera season in Australia, correspondence between Divall and the Knights of Malta and the Order of St John, papers concerning a proposal to publish the music of Henry Handel Richardson, and curricula vitae and other personal documents.
The Divall Collection, which occupies 14 metres of shelving, is kept together within the Music Collection.