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Katy Wright

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Sir Peter Hall (22 November 1930 – 11 September 2017)

11:24, 12th September 2017

Theatre and opera director Sir Peter Hall has died at the age of 86.

A leading figure in theatre, Sir Peter founded the Royal Shakespeare Company at the age of 29 in 1960 and led it until 1968. He then became director of the National Theatre in 1973, overseeing its move from the Old Vic to the purpose-built complex on the South Bank, before forming the Peter Hall Company in 1988. He became the founding director of the Rose Theatre Kingston in 2003.

Hall also made a significant contribution to the world of opera. He created numerous productions for Glyndebourne over a 35-year period; he was the company’s artistic director from 1984 to 1990, and he played a key role in its decision to build a larger theatre, resulting in the creation of the new opera house.

He said of the company in 2005: ‘I’ve always been happy at Glyndebourne because the theatre man is given as much weight as the music man.’

Sir Peter created 19 productions for Glyndebourne, beginning with 1970’s La Calisto. Other highlights included Le nozze de FigaroCosì fan tutte and Don Giovanni, all conducted by Bernard Haitink; Gluck’s Orfeo et Euridice, in which Dame Janet Baker made her farewell performance to opera; and Rossini’s La Cenerentola in 2005. An enduring favourite is his production of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; first staged in 1981, it has received five revivals.

Sir Peter Hall’s classic production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was revived at the 2016 Festival. Photo: Robert Workman
Sir Peter Hall’s production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was revived at the 2016 Glyndebourne Festival. Photo: Robert Workman

Hall made his Royal Opera House debut in 1965 with the UK premiere of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, in collaboration with music director Georg Solti, and returned the following year with a new production of The Magic Flute, sung in English and conducted by Solti, for which Hall carefully re-created the original 1791 stage directions.

In 1969 Hall was made joint director of the Royal Opera with Colin Davis, but resigned before officially assuming the post. Other productions for the company include Michael Tippett’s The Knot Garden (1970), Eugene Onegin and Tristan und Isolde (both 1971), and Salome (1988).

Another notable production was Hall’s 1983 staging of Wagner’s Ring cycle in Bayreuth, Germany to mark the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death.

Since Hall’s death was announced, tributes have flooded in. Gus Christie, Glyndebourne’s executive chair, described Hall’s tenure as ‘a golden era’, adding: ‘He was loved by both audiences and artists. The productions he created were timeless – as you can tell by the many occasions we have revived them.’

Critic Rupert Christiansen tweeted: ‘Peter Hall one of the greatest of opera directors: he understood that the music had to lead the drama…’, and a statement issued by the Royal Opera House noted that Hall ‘brought to all his opera direction a deep understanding of the music, much clarity and profound dramatic insight’.

Sir Peter was diagnosed with dementia in 2011.

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