Preview: Strictly Gershwin, Royal Albert Hall, London
Wednesday 11 June 2008
Raymond Gubbay, classical-music promoter extraordinaire, is well rounded. Despite having promoted concerts and musical productions in the UK for 40 years – putting on more than 400 shows a year – and catapulting stars such as Pavarotti, Ray Charles and Yehudi Menuhin into the country's biggest arenas, he still finds time to enjoy his six grandchildren, collect antiques and live in his two houses in France. "There is a life way beyond what I do," he says.
Since 1966, when he first started clawing his way up through small halls around the UK ("the first concert was a little Gilbert and Sullivan evening with four singers and a pianist for two nights at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds"), he has never looked back. "I drifted in to the profession, really. All I had were my ideas and enthusiasm to carry me through. What is the secret of my success? I have just enjoyed myself enormously. I have never been motivated much by money. It is just the enthusiasm for the job. I wake up in the morning and thank God that I like what I do."
This year alone, Gubbay has presented a Gilbert and Sullivan season at the Gielgud Theatre, revived Tosca at the Royal Albert Hall, and been responsible for an international dance festival at the London Coliseum.
His new English National Ballet production of Strictly Gershwin at the Royal Albert Hall will involve 64 dancers, a 50-piece jazz orchestra and the Broadway legend and Grammy-winning singer Barbara Cook. The show features an array of Gershwin classics and dramatic finales for the dancers, climaxing with "Rhapsody in Blue".
"There are so many moments one looks back on with enormous pride," Gubbay says. "We first brought Pavarotti to the Barbican in the mid-Eighties because he wanted to do a masterclass. We hired thrones for him to sit on, but when he arrived, he laughed – he was carrying a satchel, and he pulled out a stool that he had screwed together."
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