John Christie (opera manager)
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John Christie CH MC (14 December 1882 – 4 July 1962) was an English landowner and producer. He was the founder of the Glyndebourne Opera House and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera at his home at Glyndebourne, near Lewes in Sussex in 1934.
Born to a wealthy landed family in Eggesford, Devon, Christie was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge, later spending seven years at Eton as a master. He served in the trenches in the First World War with the King's Royal Rifle Corps, despite partial blindness, was awarded the Military Cross, and reached the rank of Captain. Having been given the Glyndebourne Estate for his own use he began to develop local enterprises there from 1920 onwards: in 1923, he acquired the famous organbuilding company of William Hill & Son & Norman & Beard Ltd., which had come into being around 1916 with the progressive merging of its two constituent firms. The firm remained in Christie ownership until its demise in the 1990s.
In 1931 he married the Canadian soprano Audrey Mildmay, and together they planned to build an opera theatre as an annex to the main house. This was completed in 1934 and the first season, which featured Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro and Cosi fan tutte, conducted by Fritz Busch was an immediate success.
In succeeding years Christie continued to finance the Glyndebourne Festival Opera himself but after World War II, during which the opera season was suspended, the costs became harder to bear. Eventually however he succeeded in getting commercial sponsorship, placing the Festival on a sound footing and enabling him to aspire to the highest artistic standards. His legacy is an institution that still flourishes and receives international acclaim.
In 1954 John Christie was made a Companion of Honour for his achievement at Glyndebourne.
He died at Glyndebourne in 1962. After Christie's death, the festival was taken over by his son, Sir George Christie, and subsequently by his grandson Gus Christie. Like his father, Sir George was also made a Companion of Honour for his work at Glyndebourne. John's founding of Glyndebourne is the subject of the 2015 biographical play The Moderate Soprano by David Hare.