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He studied as an actor at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, graduating in 1989. In 2007, The Independent ranked him among the 100 most influential gay and lesbian people in Britain. He was the guest on the BBC's Desert Island Discs on 5 October 2008.
- Adriana Lecouvreur: Royal Opera House
- Agrippina: La Monnaie, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, English National Opera
- Aida: Royal Opera House
- Alcina: Bilbao, Oviedo, English National Opera
- Billy Budd: Lyric Opera of Chicago
- La bohème: Glyndebourne Festival Opera
- Carmen: Glyndebourne Festival Opera
- La clemenza di Tito: English National Opera
- Les contes d'Hoffmann: Salzburg Festival, Vlaamse Opera
- Don Giovanni: La Monnaie
- Elektra: Lyric Opera of Chicago
- Faust: La Monnaie
- Fidelio: New Zealand International Arts Festival
- Giulio Cesare: Glyndebourne Festival Opera
- Hamlet: Opera North
- Idomeneo: Vlaamse Opera, Scottish Opera
- L'incoronazione di Poppea: Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Opéra national du Rhin, Copenhagen Opera House
- Macbeth: Mariinsky Theatre, Royal Opera House
- Madama Butterfly: Scottish Opera
- Manon: New Zealand Opera, Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Liceu
- A Midsummer Night's Dream: La Monnaie
- Le nozze di Figaro: Royal Opera House
- The Rape of Lucretia: Aldeburgh Festival
- Il re pastore: Opera North
- Rigoletto: Royal Opera House
- Der Rosenkavalier: Opera North, Scottish Opera
- Salome: Royal Opera House
- Semele: Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Opéra national du Rhin
- Sweeney Todd: Opera North
- Tamerlano: Deutsche Oper am Rhein
- Tosca: English National Opera
- Il trovatore: Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera
- Wozzeck: Lyric Opera of Chicago
- Die Zauberflöte: La Monnaie, Royal Opera House
McVicar's productions of Faust, Le nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflöte, Rigoletto and Salome at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, his Carmen and much-acclaimed Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne, and his Manon at the Liceu are all available on DVD.
- Independent interview, 2001
- The Independent, (6 May 2007), "The pink list 2007: The IoS annual celebration of the great and the gay"; retrieved 25 June 2007.
- The London Gazette: . 16 June 2012.
- "David McVicar". BBC News. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- Profile, telegraph.co.uk; accessed 14 June 2014.
- http://www.mariinsky.ru/print/en/opera/mcvicar Biography of David McVicar
- http://www.positivenation.co.uk/issue90/regulars/artspage/arts_special.htm Interview with Positive Nation
- http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/music/features/article342211.ece Interview with the Independent