World of opera unites to raise cash for dead soprano's young son

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The Independent Culture

Leading figures from the world of opera will perform at a charity concert next week to raise funds for the four-year-old son of Susan Chilcott, the leading opera singer who died of breast cancer.

Some in the press and the public were surprised when it emerged that Ms Chilcott had asked the concert pianist Iain Burnside, a gay man who was her closest friend, to bring up her son Hughie after her death. Mr Burnside, who is also Radio 3's longest-serving presenter, has now spoken publicly for the first time since her death, paying tribute to Ms Chilcott ahead of the concert.

"She was incredibly warm- hearted and infinitely generous," said Mr Burnside. "She was a great person and a great singer and we all miss her like mad. This concert has been a real labour of love for all involved, and I am delighted to support it."

All money from the evening is to go to the Hugh Chilcott Trust, a foundation formed to give the boy, who has never had any contact with his real father and now lives with Mr Burnside, a good start in life or, as one friend put it, "the kind of life his mother would have wanted for him".

The broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, who was a close friend of Ms Chilcott's and is a trustee of the Hugh Chilcott Trust, said: "I think it is remarkable that four different opera companies and some of the country's best soloists are to come together in this glorious tribute to Sue.

"It is fantastically generous and is a mark of the deep affection in which she was held by her peers and by all those who knew her."

The concert takes place next Sunday at the Grand Theatre in Leeds. The four opera companies taking part are the English National Opera, Opera North, Scottish Opera and the Welsh National Opera.

Highlights will include the combined chorus singing the finale from Candide, Miserere from Il Trovatore and the Grand March from Aida. Soloists will include the baritone Simon Keenlyside, and Anthony Michaels-Moore and Dennis O'Neil, who will perform "Era la notte" from Verdi's Otello.

To purchase a ticket, call the Leeds Grand Theatre box office on 0113 222 6222. To make a donation to the Hugh Chilcott Trust, please phone 0113 243 9999.