Power changes hands at Glyndebourne

Power changes hands at Glyndebourne


norman lebrecht

March 12, 2018

Glyndebourne’s long-serving director of finance and resources, Sarah Hopwood, has been upgraded to managing director in an internal reshuffle following the mysterious departure of artistic director Sebastian Schwarz.

Gus Christie becomes executive chairman.

Hopwood has been at Gly for more than 15 years.

Among her Facebook friends, there are no artists.

Going up: this is Sarah’s Fb profile pic.

UPDATE: In a message to staff, Gus Christie says: ‘We have decided to appoint Managing Director and Artistic Director, both reporting to myself and the board…. Sarah Hopwood will be appointed Managing Director as of today.

Sarah has been with Glyndebourne for 20 years and has steered us through many challenges. It is largely through her foresight and tenacity that we remain financially independent…’



  • Hanna Nahan says:

    Some of us prefer not to mix work and play on Facebook you know, Norman. Her friend list has literally no relevance to her professional capacity…

  • JB says:

    Glyndebourne had a seriously large artistic hole at it’s heart now. Hopwood cares and knows nothing of opera and knows nothing of how to treat performers and give them the support they need (she disbanded the Stage Door team) and Steven Naylor hasn’t the clout or vision necessary for one of the world’s most important opera houses and Robin Ticciati has his own problems. I hope they can bring in an artistic director to lead the artistic vision, or I severely worry for what Glyndebourne will become. To think what Sir George Christie would think of all this? Glyndebourne was all about utter excellence, and creating the finest opera possible. I don’t see that happening with this team in place. Very sad days indeed.

    • GT says:

      Strange that someone who ‘doesn’t care’ about opera would choose to have worked at Glyndebourne for over 20 years…
      Someone with an axe to grind here?

      • William says:

        @GT Hopwood stays because she is paid a ridiculous sum of money for what she actually does, gets a free car, free health insurance, loads of perks – she doesn’t have the ability to go anywhere else and get half of what she gets at GB so of course she stays. She is a forceful, dominant personality in an environment where people tend to be more mild-mannered, creative rather than corporate and therefore she can be bolshey and get what she wants because no one stands up to her.

        • RF says:

          @William Hmm, funny that someone with ‘no ability’ has managed to maintain Glyndebourne’s financial independence over such a long period…I’m only sorry that ‘mild-mannered, creative’ people like yourself don’t recognise that decisions like these are taken by a board of trustees, NOT by an individual seeking personal glory.

          • William says:

            RF the board is made up of people just like Hopwood, there is very little diversity across it and they look after their own. The board is in desperate need more women, more younger people and more people from less well off economic backgrounds. Do you think Boards always make good decisions in all businesses? This move smacks of having no other options basically. Recruitment to replace David Pickard is clearly a challenge and not something that can be done easily as they have found out. Yes Hopwood is capable of managing the financial side, but a managing director also needs people skills, and she has none.

          • RF says:

            @William I agree with you that boards do not always get it right, but they absolutely have done here. I think that someone with a keen eye for financial rigour in an arts organisation, particularly one like Glyndebourne, is fundamental (look at the woes of several other British opera companies), but unfortunately that approach always seems to make enemies in an artistic sphere. It seems that you’re one of these enemies and you’re using that to make unsubstantiated claims about Hopwood’s character and ability to do all aspects of her new role. You won’t be the only person to think what you do, but your views are certainly not shared by everyone, and if you’re concluding that Hopwood has no people skills, you don’t know her as well as you think you do. Roll on Festival ’18 – I think people will take to her just fine.

          • William says:

            RF I have had plenty of experience dealing with her and I know many staff at Glyndebourne cannot stand her and leave because she interferes with their work, despite not having any artistic or technical knowledge to do so. This is micro managing at its best, and shows a lack of trust in her management team that they know what they are doing and don’t need her meddling in everything. You try talking to her and you get cut off halfway through, decision already made and often the wrong one. She may manage the money well (though who knows, an awful lot of it does get wasted as we know) but sometimes you have to spend money to save in the long run and I don’t think she has that sort of vision, its always very much in the moment with her. But regardless, if you can’t trust your team and you don’t have their respect, you won’t make a good COO, MD or any other title she adopts. When those people are saying they hope she retires at 60 then I’m sorry but you are not doing a good job.

          • RF says:

            @William Like I said, there will always be people like you in an arts organisation that have a problem with authority, but you don’t get to where she’s got without being popular with a healthy number of people. I’m sorry you have such concerns.

    • GT says:

      I heard that Jeremy Bines was the real problem

  • Arthur Harveys says:

    What Hopwood does with her Facebook presence is neither here nor there.

    That said, she’s a canny operator. She upgraded herself from Finance Director to Chief Operating Officer when David Pickard left; now Sebastian Schwarz has gone she’s given herself another leg-up. She’s the one who’s been pulling the strings at Glyndebourne for years because she’s in control of the one thing everyone there is petrified over: money. The other Directors impotently go along with her demands for budget cuts year after year, while she gives herself these promotions and pay rises. Clever woman. Poor Glyndebourne.

  • John Rook says:

    Is the photo part of Glyndebourne’s Putin-type video to promote the future regime?

  • C Porumbescu says:

    Just because someone works in the arts, why would they necessarily have artists as friends on Facebook? Many people use FB principally to relax and to stay in touch with actual friends. It’s not obligatory to use it for professional purposes. In fact I tend to be slightly suspicious of people who do.

    • Me! says:

      I think what he means is it’s telling in 15 years there she’s made no artist friends- that said it may well not be her fault often a divide between front and back of house so to speak and of course her fb could be childhood friends and family

      • SC says:

        I have worked there much as a performer over the last 5 years and she has never come and introduced herself to me. She knows nothing of how to treat performers, and other facets of what she is doing there go against any understanding of what is important for an artistic organisation. Glyndebourne is headed down a very sad track of insignificance if she is in charge.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Perhaps her view is that the artistic director should look after the artists…

          • SC says:

            There is no artistic director. And no, someone in her position should be known to and care about her artists. She doesn’t even know what art is…so good luck Glyndebourne..

  • Daniel P says:

    What a pointlessly shameful and juvenile ‘article’.
    Since when has the contents of someone’s ‘Facebook friends list’ been an indicator of their professionalism or ability to lead?

    Sarah has worked within Glyndebourne for twenty years and knows the company inside and out, hence her deserved promotion.

    I’ve known her for a few years and her kindness, diligence and dedication is superb – Glyndebourne is in safe hands.

  • William says:

    God help them. This woman is a bully, self obsessed and has no ability to ‘schmooze’ with the wealthy nor plan anything artistic. She rules with an iron fist and doesn’t listen to anyone – no wonder good people keep leaving while those who stay have just kind of accepted their place and given up trying to make proactive and positive suggestions. Hopwood oversaw the disasterous 3 year White Cube deal and many other projects that have just been a big waste of money. Sebastian Schwartz never had the gravitas to put her in her place and his short tenure cost them huge sums. Yet this woman will nitpick over £50 here, £20 there being wasted and refuses to ever be lenient on salary to attract higher calibre people to the lower paid roles. So many people at Glyndebourne are counting the days to her retiring but its still a few years yet!

  • Mike says:

    I see Glyndebourne are now advertising for a new Artistic Director – has Steven Naylor given up the ghost or is this role to bring in someone like Sebastian Schwartz without the worries of the business side the General Director was also meant to undertake, as that is now being dealt with by Hopwood? If it’s the latter then why not just bring Schwartz back, in what would be a reduced role but still an important one? Naylor does a good job on the whole but it wouldn’t be a bad thing if someone else was there to challenge his thinking sometimes.

    On a second note, I have to say I agree with much of the negativity about Sarah Hopwood. She is no financial genius in my experience. There are several examples I can recall from my time there of where Glyndebourne wasted a lot of money or decisions she made came back to end up costing a lot. She even keeps the financial controller away from key departmental budget meetings! She will throw thousands at mistreated employees to make them go away quietly, but refuses to offer sensible starting salaries when recruiting key roles because she wants to save a grand here or there.

    If you have ever seen the film, The Devil Wears Prada, then Miranda in that is like an exaggerated version of Sarah Hopwood. Unfortunately to make matters worse she hired an old friend of hers as the new Head of HR a couple of years ago so even if someone does raise the bullying culture issue it won’t be tackled. HR went downhill with the departure of Julia Murray-Logue sadly, one of the reasons I moved on. The new HR head was supposed to work on developing Sebastian’s corporate abilities – look how that turned out, but thats what you get when you employ your mates instead of someone effective!