Happy birthday to Sir Tony, Covent Garden’s music director for almost 18 years and so happy in himself that hardly anyone imagines he could ever leave.
He is the lynchpin of the Royal Opera, the reason all the stars turn up, rather than cancelling at the slightest twinge as they do elsewhere. He is probably the most sympathetic repetiteur on earth and his wife, Pam, play an important role in making artists feel comfortable in their roles.
When I first met him, at La Monnaie in Brussels, he could not believe that he would ever get offered such a job. Credit to EMI chief Peter Alward who proposed him and to Colin Southgate who signed him on. Apart from Solti in the 1960s and Haitink in the turbulent 90s, no conductor has been more vital to the company’s survival.