It is with great sadness that we record the death of Lord Harewood, Founder of Opera North.
A man of many passions, George Harewood devoted his life in the pursuit of music and opera, and more than anyone else, certainly in the UK and probably in the world, he brought about a renaissance of opera as we know it today.
His love of and interest in opera dated from a young age, and he was an avid student, even during his incarceration as a second world war PoW in Colditz.
He began his professional career with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and through his friendship with Benjamin Britten commissioned the ‘coronation masterpiece’ Gloriana, an opera which has become closely associated with Opera North.
Lord Harewood’s enormous contribution to opera in this country centred around his directorship of English National Opera, which he created out of Sadlers Wells Opera, installing the new company in its present home in the London Coliseum.
He was radical and flamboyant and his belief that opera should be for all led to the company’s intense commitment that opera should be performed in the language of the audience and to an artistic regime which became the envy of the world. There are also incalculable numbers of distinguished artists – singers, conductors and directors – who benefited from his support and belief in them. As a talent spotter and developer, he was unbeatable.
His personal enthusiasm that opera should be readily accessible resulted in the creation in 1978 of English National Opera North based in Leeds, and two years later his vision was complete – the foundation of Opera North as a truly national company and the only one to be based inEnglandoutsideLondon.
Since the company’s foundation, Lord Harewood served as Vice Chairman and Founder. He gave great comfort to the Board that here was someone who could contribute a level of expertise which hardly existed in any other opera company, and, although non-executive, he was a critical friend and mentor to those who have led the company from strength to strength over the last 33 years.
Speaking personally, there is no one who has had more impact on my career in opera than George Harewood: he taught me the willingness to take risks, determination to stand up for what we do, resilience in the face of financial challenges and courage to allow artistic vision to flourish. He was also a loyal friend, counsellor and an inspiration.
The fact that Opera North has blossomed into one of the most innovative and successful opera companies in the UK, critically regarded and admired by audiences, is a testament to Lord Harewood’s vision and we and our communities are all the better for it.
Richard Mantle, General Director