Fascinating talk for Arts Circle

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David Pickard was for 14 years artistic director of Glyndebourne Opera. Although we in Eastbourne regard Glyndebourne as “our” local opera-house, it has a reputation that is truly international.

For the past six months David has had a new job: Director of the Promenade Concerts. On May 29 he generously shared with Eastbourne Arts Circle his thoughts about his roles at both these august institutions. It swiftly became clear that he fulfilled one important requirement for both jobs: he is a good communicator. In what he presented as a “chat” he ranged, with honesty and conviction, over many aspects of his thinking. He joked about his “vision” for each task, but behind the humour we became aware that he had given serious thought to balancing commercial exigencies with what one might call “the Common Good.” He told us how he attracted the under-30s to attend an opera-house which oozes tradition. He described Glyndebourne’s successful outreach to school-children, some of whom have even taken parts. He mentioned specifically some of his favourite productions: Faery Queen, Billy Budd, Meistersinger, Hansel and Gretel and Saul, a list far-removed from the traditional round of Mozart. I had seen them all, and would disagree with him only as regards Saul, where I disliked the juxtaposition of Handel’s great music with trouser-dropping comedy onstage.

How, he asked, can one bear to leave Glyndebourne? Only by being offered an equally wonderful job, with opportunity to bring one’s own personal wish-list to the fresh tasks. He confirmed that he supported the 1895 definition of what the Proms were about: “To bring the best of classical music to the widest possible audience.” To fulfil that aim he has already begun to make his mark on the programming. There will be occasional concerts away from the Albert Hall; we shall have Shakespeare-inspired music; links with South America will be strengthened; some concerts will place the cello centre-stage; and so on.

The afternoon concluded with a Q&A session conducted by Elizabeth Muir Lewis. Thanks were expressed by the Arts Circle’s new Chairman Helen Rufus-Ward. By Robin Gregory.