Obituary: Former Royal Opera Chairman Colin Southgate Dies at 83

By Francisco Salazar

Former chairman of the Royal Opera Sir Colin Southgate has died on July 26, 2021 at the age of 83.

Southgate led the Royal Opera House Board during and following its major redevelopment in the late 1990’s and ensured the survival of the opera house. He also helped in appointing Michael Kaiser and Tony Hall to lead the administration and Antonio Pappano as Music Director.

Born in 1938,  Southgate’s father was a wholesaler in the fruit and vegetable market next to the opera house. He would attend the City of London School and then entered the computer technology industry and became a leader at Thorn, which would eventually merge with EMI. During his time with EMI, Southgate attended the Covent Garden and advocated for the need to open the house up to a wider public.When the Royal Opera reopened in 1999, it was Southgate that is credited with maintaining the company’s integrity, putting the finances on a more sustainable footing, and extending access to as broad a public as possible.

Southgate helped appoint Pappano to Music Director after seeing him conduct a performance of Verdi’s “Don Carlo” at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. He said it was his biggest achievement for the house.

In 1992, he was knighted and served on the Court of the Bank of England, was a trustee of the National Gallery, and chaired PowerGen. He loved owning racehorses and  gardening as well as opera and ballet.

In a statement, Antonio Pappano said, “Colin was a giant of the music industry embracing all genres, with an enthusiasm of a fan for all the artists. He was a dear friend to me personally, and to the Royal Opera House which he helped to shape 25 years ago.”