Sir George Christie, chairman of Glyndebourne Opera from 1958 to 1999, has died aged 79.
Sir George oversaw the transformation of the company into the fully-fledged, year-round operation it is today, his leadership and widely-acknowledged gift for fundraising making possible many significant advances which helped to open up Glyndebourne to those from outside the elite.
Most notably these include the current theatre building, inaugurated in 1994; the creation of Glyndebourne Touring Opera in 1968; and the trailblazing formation of the company’s education department in 1986.
The only son of Glyndebourne founders John Christie and Audrey Mildmay, Sir George succeeded his father as chairman in 1958 at the age of 23. In 2000 he became the company’s president, passing on the chairmanship to his own son, Gus Christie.
He also served on many artistic boards, including the Gulbenkian Foundation, at which he had worked in his early career, Arts Council England, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and the London Sinfonietta, of which he was founder-chairman.
‘A man who felt it undignified to wear his heart on his sleeve,’ wrote Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph, ‘his public persona was beady-eyed and wryly amusing.
‘What may not have been immediately evident was his shrewd business sense, and his knowledge that Glyndebourne’s incomparably high standards and reputation depended as much on sound management and a healthy bank balance as on artistic inspiration.’
In the Financial Times, Andrew Clark wrote: ‘His legacy is a business with a £25m turnover, in which entrepreneurship and artistic idealism walk hand in hand.’