For Mike, the moment that opera came truly alive and led him into a lifetime obsession was a performance of Fidelio at Sadlers Wells in the early 1960s, the baton that night being held by a thirty-something Colin Davis. Prior to that it had been Gilbert and Sullivan in his native Devon (first watching and then performing): immediately after that it was Mozart, Wagner and Strauss in quick succession and an exploration of the opera houses of Europe, and the repertoire, that goes on to this day.
Mike spent a year at the Sorbonne in 1963/64 and sang with the 'Chorale de la Sorbonne' under Jean Gitton. At King's College Cambridge he read French and German, acted and directed, was in the Footlights and sang with the Cambridge Opera Society. Diplomatic Service followed, with postings in Düsseldorf, Budapest, Paris and Berlin and the operatic life that went with them. Highlights were the 1970s in Budapest, where he became a close friend of Lamberto Gardelli, for many years chief conductor at the opera house and a noted exponent of the Verdi repertoire – including all the earlier works – and then, from 1990 – 1995 Berlin, where all three opera houses became easily accessible after the fall of the Wall, and Barenboim took over at the Staatsoper.
After thirty years in government service and a further ten in business, Mike embarked in 2004 on the BA (Hons) Opera Studies degree at Rose Bruford College and graduated with a 1st in 2008. Apart from the core modules he did papers on Mozart, Verdi, Berg and Britten, plus the absorbing 'Shakespeare in Opera'. His dissertation was on the role played in the genesis of Der Rosenkavalier by a mutual friend of both Strauss and Hofmannsthal, Count Harry Kessler. Mike is now starting a PhD on the same theme.
He sees most of the repertoire at the major UK houses, follows Opera North and WNO and goes every year to the 'three Gs' (Glyndebourne, Grange Park and Garsington) but also supports enthusiastically the smaller country house opera venues such as Stanley Hall in Essex (which originated Jeff Clarke's 2008 production of an old Gardelli favourite, Un giorno di regno, later to sparkle at Iford). He is involved with the major project at Snape Maltings, to realise the original Britten Pears dream of a developed campus for the performing arts and to construct a variety of halls to suit everything from recitals and chamber performances (including chamber opera) to the major symphonic repertoire. This will be a great addition to the arts scene in the East – as will the new premises for Dance East in the reclaimed and refurbished dockside complex in Ipswich.
Mike has been adviser and consultant to various arts projects and companies, including IMG Artists. He is a governor at King's College School, Cambridge and a non-executive director of International Classical Artists, the parent company of a major London music and arts management agency. He lives in Suffolk in a converted flax mill, just beside the river Fynn.