Born in Elgin, and originally trained as a musician, Robert David MacDonald spent some years as a translator for UNESCO before becoming assistant director at Glyndebourne and at the Royal Opera at Covent Garden. He directed plays and operas in Amsterdam, Atlanta, Berlin, Boston, Brussels, Houston, Minneapolis and Vienna. His adaptation of the production of War and Peace by his former teacher Erwin Piscator, ran for two seasons on Broadway and received an Emmy Award when shown on US television. He was co-director of the Citizens' Theatre Company, Glasgow from 1971 to 2003 and wrote fifteen plays for the company including DRACULA 1972; CAMILLE 1974; DE SADE SHOW 1975; CHINCHILLA 1977; NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH 1978; SUMMIT CONFERENCE 1978; A WASTE OF TIME 1980; DON JUAN 1980; WEBSTER 1983; ANNA KARENINA 1987; CONUNDRUM 1992. As translator he translated/adapted over seventy operas and plays from ten different languages, including such operas as: Brecht's THE THREEPENNY OPERA (Glasgow/ENO North), Handel's TAMERLANO (WNOC 1982), Marschner's VAMPIRE! (BBC 1992/3), Mozart's COSI FAN TUTTI (Hintlesham 1965), Mozart's FLIGHT FROM THE HAREM (WNOC 1988), Rossini's THE BARBER OF SEVILLE (WNOC 1986), Verdi's AIDA (WNOC 1983); and plays: Beaumarchais' FIGARO, Cocteau's ORPHEUS and THE HUMAN VOICE, Dürrenmatt's CONVERSATION AT NIGHT and ACHTERLOO, Fassbinder's SHADOW OF ANGELS, Genet's THE BALCONY, THE BLACKS and THE SCREENS, Gogol's THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR, Goethe's TASSO and FAUST I & II, twelve of Goldoni's plays, Ibsen's BRAND and HEDDA GABLER, Lermontov's MASKERADE, Lorca's THE HOUSE OF BERNADA ALBA, Molière's SCHOOL FOR WIVES and DON JJAN, Pirandello's ENRICO FOUR, Racine's PHEDRA, Schiller's MARY STUART, THE SEAGULL, Verne's ROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS, Wedekind's LULU Gœthe’s CLAVIGO.
As an actor with the Glasgow Citizens he played the leading roles in at least eight of their productions and as director with the company he directed more than fifty productions including the British and world premieres of Balzac's VAUTRIN, Dumas' ANTONY, Goethe's FAUST I/II and TASSO, ten plays by Goldoni, Kraus' LAST DAYS OF MANKIND, Hochhuth's JUDITH, Lermontov's MASKERADE and Musset's HIDDEN FIRES. His last production for them was Henry Green’s NOTHING in November/December 2003. He died on 19 May 2004.