English opera mourns musical director – Slipped DiscSlipped Disc
Opera North has announced the death of its co-founder, David Lloyd Jones, at the age of 87. He was a deceptively good conductor, with many recordings to his name.
It is with great sadness that I must announce that David Lloyd-Jones, Founding Music Director of Opera North, has passed away following an illness.
In 1978 David was instrumental in founding Opera North, initially as English National Opera North (ENON), with George, then Earl of Harewood, and Graham Marchant, the company’s first general manager. . David became the first Music Director of Opera North and its orchestra, the English Northern Philharmonia (which was later renamed the Orchestra of Opera North). During his tenure he established Opera North as a truly distinctive and highly acclaimed national opera company, based in Leeds and proudly serving the whole of the North. He remained in office until 1990.
It was in 1980 that David announced that “ENON’s third season sees society settle more firmly into the patterns that will eventually become its norm and render its connection to Colosseum society increasingly irrelevant”. About a year later, the link with ENO was indeed severed and, under David’s leadership, “Opera North decisively asserts that it has left its infancy behind”.
Known affectionately as ‘DL-J’, David poured his enormous energy and talent into creating a new opera company from the ground up. The creation of Opera North proved to be one of the great artistic achievements of the last 50 years in the UK and the pioneering spirit that David instilled in the Company remains at the heart of it today. It was no small feat to establish a brand new professional choir and orchestra in Leeds where none existed before. “An act of faith” is perhaps the most eloquent description of this incredible adventure, carried out, some would say, against all odds.
Lord Harewood wrote of Opera North in 1979 that “one of the cornerstones is the Company’s ability to take a recognized masterpiece like Figaro or Rigoletto to theaters or buildings not normally associated to opera but capable of theatrical performances and serving an area that deserves it…only thus will we convince the detractors of opera that this so-called “elitist” art can be planned democratically and will we convince the general public that they and the elite are one.” It was no coincidence that the same year the Company opened a production of The Marriage of Figaro in Barnsley which toured Scarborough and Darlington before arriving at Leeds Grand Theater !
David was the Company’s tireless driving force and in our first season he directed no less than six productions – Samson et Dalila (the Company’s very first production), La Bohème, The Magic Flute, Hansel and Gretel, Peter Grimes and Figaro.
He had a special love and deep knowledge of Russian literature and opera, and in 1982 he memorably conducted one of Opera North’s greatest musical achievements with Prince Igor of Borodin, followed by the years followed by equally exceptional interpretations of two giants of the Russian canon, Mussorgsky’s The Love For Three Oranges and Boris Godounov.
While at Opera North, DL-J led a busy concert schedule, much of which featured his budding passion for British orchestral music, the fruits of which can still be enjoyed in several recordings in the Naxos catalogue.
A number of us and so many artists who were associated with Opera North during those early years will recognize his remarkable musical gifts and sophistication, combined with immense experience and a capacity for enthusiasm and curiosity that led him to explore more repertoire, in more genres. , which most conductors dream of. A professional through and through.
Obviously, David was one of the people who really defined the special character of Opera North. We wouldn’t be the company we are today without his fervor, his passion and his determination, which taught us that all the art of the possible is here to stay.
Even those of us who currently work at Opera North who did not have the privilege of knowing him or working with him will remember the name David Lloyd-Jones with immense admiration, respect, love and gratitude.