Sudden death of British opera maker

Sudden death of British opera maker


norman lebrecht

February 01, 2023

The wonderful Kit Hesketh-Hervey died suddenly today at 65.

A boy chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, he spent six years as a BBC staff producer before branching out into multiple directions. He wrote the script for Merchant-Ivory’s film Maurice, studied a while with Sondheim, performed cabaret, popped upon comedy shows and was never short of a quip. He scripted the TV series The Vacar of Dibley.

He adapted Jacques Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène for English National Opera. He translated The Bartered Bride for Charles Mackerras at Covent Garden and The Merry Widow for Opera North. His text for Anthony Bolton’s The Life and Death of Alexander Litvinenko was staged at Grange Park Opera. He was, above all, witty, restless, creative and fun.


  • William Evans says:

    Sad news, indeed. Condolences to Mr Hesketh-Harvey’s family and close friends.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Horrible news. He saved a church in Norfolk and dedicated it to the performing arts. Very much an active member of the village community and not an ‘entitled Londoner’, he was widely loved locally and gave generously of his time and resources to promote arts in the area. Sixty-five is too young, my condolences to his family.

  • Armchair Bard says:

    Truly shocking news. We were choral scholars together at Clare, Cambridge, and from the off it was obvious that he’d make a mark; and that at least a part of that mark would be great fun, sharp, witty.

    Just one recollection. Late-night cabaret with Kit & the Widow at the Three Choirs (yup), and a version of their work-over of Andrew Lloyd Webber as, ahem, borrower that was so off-piste I’m surprised we weren’t asked to sign NDAs on the way in.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      My mother was a local mayor in the early 2000s. She attended a K+TW evening at either Stoke Ferry or KL (I think KL) and guffawed at a reference Kit made to ‘fluffing’. Kit, not missing a beat, said ‘Oh, the Mayor knows what a Fluffer is’. The concert had to be paused for about five minutes. Great days.

      • Armchair Bard says:

        Oh that’s just marvellous, Anthony. I’m hearing it now in my mind’s ear. (By the way, I can’t be alone in being, er, tickled by the fact that in earlier slang, ‘fluffer’ denoted a certain kind of woman paid to get down on her knees.*)

        Kit once wrote an ode to Cambridge University Library. Wish I’d made a copy: all I can remember is a ref. to its tumescent tower . . .


        *Quiet at the back, titter ye not: they were the night-time cleaning ladies who used to dust the tracks in the tunnels of the London Underground.

  • Ernest says:

    I remember those happy days of Kit & the Widow. RIP!

  • Tony Britten says:

    Charming, always generous with his praise for other creative people and truly creative in so may ares of the arts. Very sad news

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Sorry to mention it again, but your Yniold is part of my favourite Pelléas recording. Many thanks.

      • Tony Britten says:

        A career high – in fact I wonder if its been downhill ever since!
        (Blimey – that’s asking for troublesome replies, isn’t it!)

    • Hazel Wright says:

      So sad to read this – I knew him at The BBC Arts Department and loved his performances and writing. Far too young to die.

  • Minutewaltz says:

    Lovely, talented man. I remember a brilliant cabaret he did with a funny song about Robin Cook (remember him?) to the tune of Robin Hood.
    Offstage he was modest, witty and charming.