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Sir George Christie, Beloved Glyndebourne Opera Chief, Dead at 80

by James Inverne   May 9, 2014 09:56 AM EDT

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A pillar of the world opera establishment, Sir George Christie, has died. Inheriting the Glyndebourne festival from his father John, after a brief apprenticeship in the world of arts funding (he once told me good-humoredly that "as a young man, having people like Laurence Olivier come to make their case for money to me was rather gratifying"), he built on the legacy with a robust touring company and, above all, an award-winning new opera house.

Defying the traditionalists by knocking down the old barn and building a venue that is the pride of Britain--and without public subsidy--Christie showed mettle and resourcefulness. Under his watch, the summer festival made something of a speciality of rare Rossini, a slew of great Janacek stagings and Handel alongside the traditional Mozarts. They groomed star singers such as Gerald Finley, Mark Padmore and many others. However, he also had his bugbears--under his roof, he insisted, Delius would remain Glyndebourne persona non grata.

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