Sad news: Ex-Covent Garden chief has died

Sad news: Ex-Covent Garden chief has died


norman lebrecht

November 25, 2016

The Royal Opera House reports the death of Paul Findlay, director of the Royal Opera from 1987 to 1993, until he fell out with the chief executive, Jeremy Isaacs.

Paul, a New Zealander, joined the opera house from university. He told me how he would sit gobsmacked at board meetings as great minds like Noel Annan and Sir Isaiah Berlin debated the ethics of running an opera house.

He knew the ROH inside out, as few have done before or since. He discovered Valery Gergiev when he was unknown outside Leningrad and did much to support many artists in their early struggles. He was forever seeking to expand the audience base. Unlike most opera chiefs, he had no ego whatsoever.

Wen he left Covent Garden Paul ran the Royal Philharmonic Orcestra for a while with the late Ewen Balfour, hiring Gergiev as music director.

He was a good, kind, honest man, much liked and sorely missed.


We send deep sympathies to Francoise and the family.


  • Music Lover says:

    I didn’t realise Gergiev has been principal conductor of the RPO? This must be a mistake surely?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Yes he was.

      • pooroperaman says:

        Sure you don’t mean the Rotterdam PO?

        No mention of Gergiev here:

        or here:

        • norman lebrecht says:

          No. I was there when he took over, and when he left. He was so incensed when the players fired Paul and Ewen that he swore never to conduct them again – which may be why they have erased him from the record.

          • Nigel says:

            Very sad news about Paul Findlay. RIP.

            I don’t think anybody’s been “erased from the record”, Norman. The princpal conductors of the RPO from 1980 were: Walter Weller 1980–85, André Previn 1985–92, Vladimir Ashkenazy 1987–94, Yuri Temirkanov 1992–98, Daniele Gatti 1996–2009 and Charles Dutoit (2009-).

            Gergiev certainly did conduct the RPO serveral times in the mid-1990s, and was in charge of a joint Mariinsky-Kirov/RPO Russian series at the Barbican. He was the chief (and only) conductor of that series – but all that was during the time when Temirkanov was the principal conductor.

      • Music lover says:

        Out of curiosity when did this happen?

  • Richard Gibbs says:

    It is rather sad that a tribute to a great arts administrator should degenerate into an argument about Gergiev who was in any case never the Principal Conductor of the RPO. Paul Findlay deserves better.

  • Robin says:

    Nothing to add to Nigel’s comments above. Quite right. Paul was a nice man. I mentioned to him that my wife and I had always wanted to go to Bayreuth and Paul organised it for us. He made a phone call and next thing we knew, the phone rang and we were offered tickets ahead of the queue, all thanks to Paul.
    Very sad at his death. Sympathies to Francois.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    There was a series of concerts held every May at the RFH which was sponsored by Zurich. Gergiev conducted annually but only as a guest.

    • Peter Freeman says:

      The Zurich series moved to the much smaller Cadogan Hall where it remains. Gergiev has guested there with the Mariinsky Orchestra for the past two seasons.

      Paul was a very nice man. I last saw him only a few months ago with Gergiev in the Green Room at the Barbican. Nobody has mentioned what caused his death or his age.

  • Diane Monelle says:

    Very sad news about Paul. He was my first boss and a very patient and kind man to work with. I will always remember sitting next to him in a dress rehearsal of The Flying Dutchman which had some major technical issues and the huge sigh of relief when everything worked smoothly! My thoughts are with his family.

  • Chris Merritt says:

    Very sad news, Indeed. Paul was so kind to me in my early years at Covent Garden. RIP.

  • Elisabeth Prideaux-Brune (nee Peterkin) says:

    I agree with Diane Monelle. I was privileged enough to work with Paul for ten years during which time he organised the Royal Ballet’s first appearance under canvas in Battersea Park and the Royal Opera’s tour to Japan and South Korea. Always full of enthusiasm, kindness and an integrity you don’t find around much nowadays. A one off who will be so missed by Francoise, his family and all his many friends.