Richard Gregson ROH Plaque
Richard Gregson worked for many years as Staff Producer for the Royal Opera House, reviving operas such as La Bohème, Otello and La Traviata. He was also one of the founders of "Floral Opera", a performance program for opera enthusiasts founded in the early 1990's. After his recent passing, we would like to purchase a name plaque to go on a seat in the Royal Opera House in his memory.
Richard Gregson ROH Plaque
Richard Gregson worked for many years as Staff Producer for the Royal Opera House, reviving operas such as La Bohème, Otello, The Tales of Hoffmann, La Traviata, and Die Fledermaus. He was also one of the founders of "Floral Opera", a performance program for opera enthusiasts founded in the early 1990s. After his recent passing, Floral Opera would like to purchase a name plaque to go on a seat in the Royal Opera House in his memory to honor his life and work.
Richard was in charge of the Education Department in the 1980s, and when giving a lecture on Carmen, it occurred to him that the best way to teach people about opera would be to get them to have a go at it. So he set up the Practical Opera Weekends, where members of the public could do a weekend’s course, starting on the Friday evening to learn a reduced version of an opera from scratch, culminating in a performance (preferably memorised) on the Sunday afternoon, when professionals joined the group to sing duets and those solos that were too taxing for the amateurs.
This took place in the De Valois Room, a large ballet studio which existed before the Opera House was rebuilt. His co-Director was Nina Walker. The operas he chose were Carmen, La Traviata, Eugene Onegin, and Peter Grimes (which included the difficult scene in ‘Auntie’s’ Tavern).
These weekends that the ROH developed were followed by someone setting up a six-weekend course in 1992, called Floral Street Opera. Richard was Stage Director, with Nina Walker and Dennis Knight as Music Directors. It folded after a year, but a number of us were not going to give up, and we grouped together to ask the Directors if they would re-launch it, which they did, so we formed a small Administration team to run it with the three of them. The name Floral Opera was chosen and we opened in December 1993, with L’Elisir d’Amore. We undertook two operas a year, later adding opera scenes, our Studies in Opera Performance, enabling more people to sing solos. In the year 2001 when Nina retired from the group, we brought in Geoffrey Burford and Benjamin Frost, and continued with Richard and Dennis until they retired in June 2003.
It was difficult to find directors of a suitable calibre who could spare their time to work with us, so by the end of 2006, after a few more courses (with Lesley-Anne Sammons, Jeremy Silver, Rob Kearley, Carlos Aransay and Ian Rutherford) we decided to settle for workshops. The admin team has kept it going ever since, organising vocal masterclasses, stagecraft days, and occasional weekends of vocal ensembles. Richard very kindly went on attending our committee meetings until quite recently, as mentor and advisor.
If it wasn’t for Richard, our Floral Opera would not exist. It is doubtful that any of the group would have dared to undertake such a project, or even imagined being able to set up such workshops, much less the opera courses. Richard’s vision for the courses was for them to be inclusive – not just for advanced young students but to give a chance to amateur singers of varying abilities and ages to audition for principal roles. There were no auditions for chorus, commitment was the main requirement. It was a repertory company, and everyone was expected to join the chorus when not singing a principal role. Not only did Richard Gregson set up the Practical Opera Weekends at the ROH, and help to start Floral Opera, but he also worked with many other amateur groups and singers of varying degrees, leading them into the magical world of opera.
We are aiming to raise a minimum of £1,000 in order to purchase a name plaque to go on a seat in the Royal Opera House in Richard's memory to honor his life and work. Should we raise more, we will either get a more expensive plaque or we will donate the money to the Royal Opera House.