Obituary: Ande Anderson

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The Independent Online
Ande Anderson spent virtually his entire working life at Covent Garden.

After war service with the West African Frontier Force and two years as stage director for Ensa in Bombay, in 1948 he joined the stage management department of the fledgling Covent Garden Opera Company (which later became the Royal Opera), becoming stage manager and assistant to the resident producer in 1956. Two years later he was raised to assistant producer, then in 1959 became resident producer, a post he held until 1972, when he became director of productions. From 1979 to 1982 he was general manager of the Royal Opera Company and even after his retirement from that post continued to work as a freelance director.

As resident producer, Anderson was responsible for revivals of operas originally staged by star directors such as Visconti and Zeffirelli, as well as the more humdrum productions of now long-forgotten directors. To both of these categories he devoted great care and as much time (never sufficient) as he was allowed.

Staff producers have a thankless task: if they alter the original staging, people are sure to complain; if they do not correct their predecessors' mistakes, people will complain even more. It was only after his retirement from Covent Garden that Ande Anderson was properly appreciated. While he worked there, solecisms that disfigured later stagings of Don Carlos and Billy Budd did not occur: no ladies accompanied Elisabeth de Valois into the Monastery of San Yuste, where the Queen of Spain was the only female permitted to enter; the officers on board HMS Indomitable did not rise to drink the King's health (naval officers had a special dispensation to remain seated, as cabin bulkheads were so low).

Anderson also worked for other organisations: he directed Semele (1959) and Hercules (1960) for the Handel Opera Society at Sadler's Wells, while for Audrey Langford's enterprising Kentish Opera Group, which performed at the Civic Hall, Orpington, he directed Menotti's The Old Maid and the Thief (1960) and The Saint of Bleecker Street (1962), both British premieres. He staged Britten's The Turn of the Screw and a double bill of Mozart's Bastien and Bastienne together with Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire at Ledlanet in Scotland in 1966, and the following year directed successful productions of Berlioz's Beatrice et Benedict and Weber's Oberon for Cambridge University Opera.

At Covent Garden Anderson was occasionally given a production of his own. In 1965 he staged Puccini's trio of one-act operas Il trittico, of which only Il tabarro and Suor Angelica were brand new; Gianni Schicchi was the reworking of a production by Peter Ustinov from 1962. I remember Il tabarro as particularly enjoyable, with Tito Gobbi, Marie Collier and Charles Craig in the principal roles. Then in 1968 Anderson directed a new production (the second) of Tippett's Midsummer Marriage, while the same year he was landed with Puccini's Manon Lescaut which used various bits of scenery discarded from other operas. The audience was surprised to recognise Brunnhilde's rock from The Ring in the final act.

However, revivals are the resident producer's chief job and Anderson was responsible, throughout the Sixties and Seventies, for a great many of these: Visconti's productions of Don Carlos, Il trovatore and La traviata; Zeffirelli's Lucia di Lammermoor, Rigoletto, Falstaff, Cavalleria rusticana, Pagliacci and Tosca were treated with the love and respect that they deserved, as was the Fidelio directed as well as conducted by the veteran Otto Klemperer. Many revivals, including The Queen of Spades, Un ballo in maschera, Carmen, Wozzeck, Der fliegende Hollander, Otello and Jenufa were, as I recall, greatly improved by his restaging, while Madama Butterfly, Elektra and Salome were virtually new versions of very old productions.

Anderson was sometimes asked to recreate Covent Garden productions for theatres abroad: there was Billy Budd in San Francisco (1978), Macbeth in Pretoria, Peter Grimes in Seattle (1983), and King Priam at the Herodes Atticus Theatre in Athens. King Priam, also revived at Covent Garden in 1985 in celebration of Tippett's 80th birthday, was originally staged by Sam Wanamaker, and Anderson brought the production vividly to life, as he had done earlier with Wanamaker's controversial staging of La forza del destino. In 1986 Anderson accompanied his wife, the soprano Josephine Barstow, on a trip to Georgia, Russia and Latvia. She sang Tosca in Tblisi, at the Bolshoi in Moscow and in Riga, where she also sang Lady Macbeth.

After his retirement from Covent Garden, Ande Anderson became a farmer in Sussex, where he raised cattle, but his familiar figure was still frequently to be seen at the Royal Opera, English National Opera, or any other theatre where his wife was singing.

Alan ("Ande") Anderson, opera producer: born South Shields 18 September 1917; married first Josephine Veasey (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved); second 1969 Josephine Barstow; died 19 June 1996.