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GREAT SAINT BERNARD

Bernard Haitink bows out as Music Director of the Royal Opera on July 13 after the second of two farewell galas featuring a fully-staged programme of his choice. He will conduct Act 2 of 'Le nozze di Figaro ' (in Johannes Schaaf's production), the King's Study Scene from 'Don Carlos' ( Luchino Visconti) and the Closing Scene from 'Die Mei tersinger van Nurnberg '(Graham Vick).

Though Haitink was initially a purely orchestral conductor, he has been central to British operatic life for a quarter of a century and-not forgetting such major debuts as the Met in 1982 ('Fidelio') and Salzburg in 1991 ('Figaro')-it is fair to say that he has enjoyed his greatest triumphs here. For a decade from 1977 he was Music Director of Glyndebourne, and left Sussex to take up the reins at the Royal Opera House where, over the last 15 years and in spite of many obstacles, he honed the orchestra into the great and versatile ensemble it now is. We bring together tributes from some of his closest colleagues, who appear in tactful alphabetical order, with the first three-Sir George Christie, John Cox and Jane Glover-along with Sir Simon Rattle representing his Glyndebourne years, and two successive Royal Opera General Directors, Sir John Tooley and Sir Jeremy Isaacs, along with one of the house's leading singers, John Tomlinson, summing up his achievements at Covent Garden. Few outside the managements and orchestras themselves have heard more Haitink performances than Rodney Milnes, who also touches on the political contro versy that surrounded Haitink when, during the darkest years at Covent Garden, he was accused of not standing up enough to a philistine Board. The state of the orchestra today suggests that he knew what he was doing all along, and its standard is the best tribute ever.

Sir George Chri tie Bernard Haitink came for the first time to Glyndebourne in 1972 to conduct Die Entfiihrung aus dem Serail. He was at the time the Principal Conductor and Arti tic Director of the LPO, Glyndebourne' re ident orchestra. So there wa a degree of incest in thi s turn of events. But the incestuousne of the tory doe not top there. John Pritchard was Glyndebourne's Music Director at the time of Bernard's first engagement at Glyndebourne and Bernard had succeeded John as the Principal Conductor of the LPO. Bernard then in 1977 succeeded John Pritchard as Glyndebourne's Music Director. Talk about mu ical chairs ...

Bernard' engagement for Die Entfiihrung met initially with one very mall discordant voice (possessor of which I won 't of course disclo e, but who was quickly won over by Bernard). The grounds for any anxiety had entirely to do with the ab ence of almo t any operatic experience in Bernard's CY--except for Don Carlos and Der fliegende Hollander-and the thought that he wa therefore not a man of the theatre. It j ust shows how wrong the world of music i in pigeon-holing people according to preconceptions of irrational or thoughtless prej udice.

Bernard proved to be innately theatrical in a multitude of ways. He carried all his performer with him: the orchestra loved him and the ingers found a kindred pirit of in pi ration. He was, I believe, tru ly happy at Glyndebourne. He was free of the

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Opera, July 2002

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