Andrew Green

Robert Rattray dies aged 67

3:25, 31st January 2018

The world of singing is in mourning for Robert Rattray, one of the outstanding vocal artist managers of modern times. Rattray, who was 67, died following a stroke suffered at home in New York, where since 2014 he had been the Metropolitan Opera’s Assistant General Manager, responsible for the forward-planning, scheduling and casting of more than two hundred opera performances each season. Met music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin said ‘the entire Met family is in a state of shock.’

Rattray took up his post at the Met at a time of much-publicised financial crisis after retiring from the London artist management office AskonasHolt, where he had specialised in representing singers for 36 years. Latterly he had been co-chief executive alongside Martin Campbell-White. Following Rattray’s death, tribute Tweets mounted up from those who have been associated with him over the years. Dame Sarah Connolly described his death as ‘an appalling loss’, while fellow mezzo Tara Erraught lauded ‘a Giant of our industry and a true gentleman.’ Tenor Ian Bostridge described Rattray as a ‘…supremely imaginative artists’ agent, lover of great art in all its forms, dear friend.’

Rattray was educated at St Edward’s School, Oxford and Edinburgh University. He was one of many leading names in the artist management world who learnt the ropes at the one-time market leader of the business in London, Ibbs & Tillett. His departure in 1977 to join the then-named Lies Askonas office put him into a different league, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Nicolai Gedda, Lucia Popp and Hermann Prey. However, much of his work was to be devoted to furthering the careers of such British singers as Felicity Lott, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, Ann Murray and Ian Bostridge. At the time of his retirement from AskonasHolt, Rattray observed (in a CM interview) that at one time it was ‘…rare for British talent to be invited to major houses abroad—now it’s taken for granted. Ann Murray, for example, went from singing opera in this country for £60 a night to many of the great companies of the world.’

In collaboration with Martin Campbell-White, Rattray also had input into the careers of such conductors as Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim and Bernard Haitink. In the course of his time in the business, much in the world of artist representation changed, but the heart of the job, Rattray insisted, remained ‘the basis of trust between artist and manager.’

The Met is set to dedicate its 5 February performance of Parsifal (conducted by Nézet-Séguin) to Rattray’s memory, with a commemorative event to be planned for later in the year. He is succeeded by his parents, Noelle and Robin, who are both in their 90s. Rattray had been intending to leave the Met within the next two years to care for them.

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