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The key to the future A new era at Covent Garden

Bernard Hairink is in the m iddle of his first season as Music Direcror of rhe Royal Opera; Paul Findlay was appoimed Opera Director lasr year; Jeremy Isaacs, General Direcwr designare, will rake up his posr on September 1. The follow ing is rhe firsr of a rranscriprion of an informal conversarion iv irh Rodney Milnes and Max Lopperr. The second parr will appear in rhe May OPERA .

RM: \Vhy are you do ing these jobs in the face of precious little encouragement from t he government? Why pers ist? What is important about opera?

BH : It 's an impossible but fascinat in g art form, and the greatest works are written for it , so we do it.

JI: We're doing it because the ans matter. They are an essential part of life. Opera and dance are forms of human expression \\'hich lift us, which enhances our li ves and it's a privilege to ha,·e anything, however humble, to do ,,·ith putting the stuff on.

BH: And there 's a tremendous interest in it. I've seen thi growing in the 30 years I have been in the musical profession , thanks to people like , for insrance , Jerem y , media people who bring it to a much wider audience than we ever could.

JI: I'm still at the innocent stage of enjoy ing opera! I till get bowled over , time a ft er t ime by work after ,,ork, not so by much the productions, not by the performances: I'm still being communicated to by the greatness that 's in the \\·ork. A s I sit here hoping to enable other people to do great work , I think of the pleasure an d hap pi ness t hat the work " ha\'e gi\'en me , and continue to gi,·e me. Through that one unde rs tands how much plea ure they gi,·e to other . \V e recei,·ed the most extraordinar y letters at Channel 4 from people who , because the y li ve not just outside London but out side the cities whe re there 's more opera than there e,·er used to be , find the thing brought into their li ves \\·ith all the limitation of tele vision-tiny screen , boxed ound-and a re hugely gratefu l fo r it. I must ha\'e had more letters at Channel 4 fro m peop le th anking me for o pera than on any other subject.

PF: Perhap the reaso n yo u phrased t he que t io n that way \\·as to indica te the problem th a t urround u , so\\ hy do we take it o n ? If yo u look bac k o,er the la t 20 years . one rea o n the e a re . o many probiem is t he enormo us growth in demand for th is particular a rr for m . It ' phenom enal ,,hat 's ha p pened in this ountry. Here \\ca ll are, figh tin g for the be t singer . the best producers, the best de - igner , and th ere'<; a publi \\ ill ing an d ,, aiti ng to lap it up, enco uraged by tele,isio n and th e amount I ha t is 110 ,1· availab le to t hem .

BH: I ·an j udge this becau e l . pent ~uch a long ti me in the concert hall . Strange!~ enough, ~o u 11 i I ne , r fin d the e\citemem 111 a wmphon~ concert that ~ou ·an r ate in an o re1 a rc1 formance, ,1 hen e,·er~ 1hing come~ together- and it·. no r ah1a,· like

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