The recently announced death of Jon Vickers has had me thinking a lot about connections. Vickers sang the title role in the second opera I saw live; Peter Grimes at Covent Garden in July 1975. Oddly, the first was The Rhinegold, at ENO, conducted by Reginald Goodall who also conducted the premiere performance of Peter Grimes in 1945. The summers of 1975 and 1976 were the first real chance, and the last for a while, that I had to see opera live. I worked those summer vacations in banks in central London which meant that I could use my lunchbreak to get a rush ticket for the evening performance. Living thirty miles out with a train to catch meant it wasn’t something I could do often but I did catch a couple of performances in each of those summers and, as I look back, there are so many beginnings and endings and connections.
Just take that Peter Grimes. Geraint Evans and Heather Harper were singing which seems to take us back into the era of the recordings engineered by Walter Legge and John Culshaw which got me into opera in the first place. Tom Allen sang Ned Keene that night and I would meet him, several times, 38 years later when he made his COC debut. A few weeks later I would see a Magic Flute at ENO where Felicity Palmer, later to be seen as Mrs. Sedley at the Met, sang Pamina. The following year the only opera I managed to catch was Henze’s We Come to the River. David Pountney, who I was to meet years later in Toronto when he directed Tosca, worked on that production. Four shows, forty years and so many connections.
And the summer of 1975 was the one where I played bridge against Omar Sharif, the other celebrity death announced in the last few days.