The Iron Lady of Glyndebourne dragging opera into the 21st century

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. Glyndebourne’s executive chairman Gus Christie, an admirer of Hopwood’s nevertheless, tells me that she doesn’t ‘mince her words’ and will ‘always defend the bottom line, sometimes making herself unpopular in the process’. Still, the figures speak for themselves and compared to many arts organizations, Glyndebourne is in rude health.

However, after 25 years at the company, Hopwood is leaving. Christie, whose grandfather John founded Glyndebourne in 1934, is clearly sad about the departure. ‘We were lucky to snaffle her,’ he tells me. But Hopwood knew ‘it was the right moment to go’ – when she leaves this autumn, she will be replaced by Richard Davidson-Houston, currently the company’s director of development audience and media.

Hopwood is 60, her two children are grown up now, at 22 and 25, and after she steps down, she will sit on the board of a local art gallery and indulge her passion for horse riding, which she describes as ‘her yoga’ .

‘If the pandemic had gone on for longer and there was a sense we were going downhill, I could not have gone. I could not have deserted a sinking ship,’ she says. ‘I am proud of how we came out the other side, but we are heading for potentially tricky times and I am not sure I have the energy to go through that again.’

We are meeting in Hopwood’s smart, uncluttered office, which exudes an air of calm and efficiency, as indeed she does. If there is a slight air of stress it’s hardly surprising. The past two years have been tough, and Glyndebourne is not out of the woods yet.

‘We have a potential cost of living crisis and we don’t know how audiences will behave. We have 28-year-old stage equipment that needs replacing, which will cost £7.5 million, and of course that is essential, but it is hitting us hard.

‘Public booking is down and international tourism is down and we don’t know how quickly they will come back.’


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