Sir George Christie, 1934-2014

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Glyndebourne Festival Opera chairman who revived the fortunes of the world’s greatest independent opera house.

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Sir George Christie, the chairman of Glyndebourne Festival Opera from 1958 until 1999, has died at the age of 79.

During his time in charge of Glyndebourne, Christie oversaw the building of the new 1,200-seat auditorium, opened in 1994 at a cost of £33 million, and established Glyndebourne Tour which, since 1968, has seen many of the opera house’s productions performed in theatres around the UK.

He is credited, too, with bringing Glyndebourne back from the financial brink through appeals and sponsorship deals.

But it is arguably his support and promotion of Glyndebourne’s education initiatives that did most to bring Glyndebourne to a wider audience, with local schools involved in youth operas and various music projects, one of which, Knight Crew, was featured in the BBC documentary Gareth goes to Glyndebourne.

Christie was the only son of Glyndebourne Opera’s founders, John Christie and the operatic soprano Audrey Mildmay who was two month’s pregnant with her son during her performances in Glyndebourne’s first production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro in May 1934.

Knighted in 1984, Christie was made a Companion of Honour in 2001. Among his other achievements, he was the founder chairman of the London Sinfonietta until 1988 and served on the boards of the Gulbenkian Foundation, Arts Council England and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.