OBITUARY: Roy Gittins, 1929-2020, York Opera director and chairman

Roy Gittins, York Opera director and chairman

YORK Opera members past and present have been saddened to hear of the death of founder member, director and chairman Roy Gittins.

A chemistry teacher – indeed head of chemistry at Tadcaster Grammar School until his retirement – Roy also had a lifelong love of theatre.

Initially, this was as an amateur actor in roles ranging from William Shakespeare to Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, before he was introduced by teaching colleague John Warburton to a group of young singers on the cusp of “graduating” from the York Youth Operatic and Choral Society.

Not finding a company in York to suit their love of opera and operetta, instead they formed City Opera Group in 1966, Roy joining as their mentor and first chairman.

Over a 25-year span, he directed around 40 operas, including Verdi’s Nabucco and Macbeth, Rossini’s William Tell and Vaughan Williams’s unjustly neglected English folk opera Hugh The Drover, a production highly praised by the composer’s widow, Ursula Vaughan Williams, who came to see it.

After working for many years in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, Roy oversaw the move of major shows to York Theatre Royal with his production of Puccini’s Turandot in 1986, when the company became known as York Opera.

His contribution to York Opera and the musical and artistic life of York has been immense and he will be remembered with great affection and gratitude. Roy leaves a daughter, Rachel Morgan, and son, Paul Gittins, to whom York Opera send their love and deepest sympathy.