Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the music impresario Raymond Gubbay. For 40 years he has brought popular classics and opera to the masses. His name has become synonymous with glittering evenings based on classical favourites with concerts often topped off with lasers, fireworks and light displays. He's worked with everyone from Pavarotti to Ray Charles and, while snooty critics dismiss it as 'middle-brow music for Middle England', it attracts audiences in their droves; two million people have now attended his 'Classical Spectacular' evenings.
It's a long way from his early days, when he toured the country with a small troupe of singers and a pianist. Then, venues would pay him 84 guineas to put on a Viennese evening or a Gilbert and Sullivan night and he had to pay the musicians and cover the cost of transport and hotels before he earned a penny. He says he gives people what they want, "tunes they can hum" and more often than not, he gets it right. But in 2004, for once, he misjudged his audience: he wanted to open a third opera house in London offering cheaper seats to a wider audience, but even before the curtain rose for the first time he knew they weren't selling enough tickets to stay open. He says it's been the biggest disappointment of his career, but he doesn't rule out another attempt to bring opera to the West End.
[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]
Favourite track: Final movement of Emperor piano concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven
Book: Unabridged Collins/Robert/ English /French dictionary
Luxury: An espresso coffee machine with coffee
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|Interviewed Guest||Raymond Gubbay|