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Geoffrey's legacy

To mark Remember a Charity in Your Will Week, Richard Collens recollects memories of his uncle and his association with Glyndebourne...

Geoffrey Collens passed away in April 2020 at the age of 86, and generously left a bequest to Glyndebourne.

To mark Remember a Charity in Your Will Week, his nephew, Richard Collens recollects memories of his uncle and his association with Glyndebourne…

A noted landscape architect and pre-eminent planning expert by trade, Geoffrey was a lifelong lover of the arts and particularly opera from his time as a student, both in the UK and for a time in the USA.

A very long and successful career gave him the means, not only to follow his passion as an audience member around the world, but also allowed him to provide financial support to the arts over many years. Throughout his life he sponsored productions, mentored young artists and, as his final gift, provided significant provision from his estate to his chosen charities and arts institutions, including Glyndebourne.

His love of and association with Glyndebourne stretched back over 60 years to an occasion when an aunt took the young Geoffrey along to see a production at the original opera house.

From that point on he was captivated and over the years would thoroughly enjoy hosting friends and family down in East Sussex every summer. His planning for these wonderful events was, as ever with Geoffrey, meticulous and left nothing to chance. Securing his very demanding and particular requirements for ticket allocations for each season was a major task especially in his later years as he was not a user of computers or mobile phones. He loved the personal service that the team gave him.

Always immaculately dressed, he never looked finer than in his dinner jacket, production programme tucked under his arm, in the evening sunshine on the balcony at Glyndebourne. Having said that the weather was occasionally Geoffrey’s undoing and some of his guests remember that innovation was sometimes required to keep the champagne from diluting and the picnic supper from floating away.

It was also very fitting that in 2014 Geoffrey shared his own 80th Birthday with that of Glyndebourne.

When reflecting on his summers at Glyndebourne, Geoffrey was perhaps most effusive about the times he saw Kiri Te Kanawa at the Festival. He saw her perform many times around the world and he was very proud that he was at her final appearance at Glyndebourne in 1998.

Kiri Te Kanawa in Capriccio, Festival 1998. Photo: Mike Hoban

In addition to his own bequest to Glyndebourne, in memory of Geoffrey, his family have also planted a tree in the grounds and named a chair in the Ebert Room in a lasting tribute that reflects the two passions in his life. 

Written by Richard Collens

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