The following first appeared in the Glyndebourne on Tour Programme Book for 2007, p. 52, and is re-published here by kind permission of the author and of Glyndebourne.

Professor David Osmond-Smith

27 December 1946 - 31 May 2007


On the 31 May Glyndebourne lost a great friend and colleague when Professor David Osmond-Smith died aged 60. A distinguished academic and musicologist, who almost single-handedly built the Music Department at the University of Sussex from its inception in the 1970s, David remained at the university and was a resident of Brighton, Lewes and Rodmell for the rest of his life. Over these four decades, David developed and maintained a very special relationship with Glyndebourne, the legacy of which is seen today in the many joint Sussex-Glyndebourne projects coordinated by the University's Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre.

David will be most fondly remembered for his countless brilliant, authoritative, informative and highly entertaining pre-performance talks that he gave on many a Glyndebourne Festival and Tour production over the years. He was a veritable expert on almost any operatic topic but it is for his unique insight into the works of Handel, Mozart, Verdi and Wagner in particular that Glyndebourne remembers him with special affection and gratitude. Always delivered with his characteristic, all-too-knowing smile, razor sharp wit and searing intellect, David delighted in priming the unsuspecting opera-goer to interrogate their edifying evening's 'entertainment'. Just as he had cultivated a generation of students at the university (many of whom themselves became distinguished academics) to scrutinize music in its social, political, historical and sexual contexts, so too David brought this insight to his 'second home' at Glyndebourne.

Born in 1946, David was educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford before reading music at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. A prodigious young man, David's sharp intellect and wit were matched by his striking chisel-featured face and athletic physique. He obtained his BA Cantab and undertook doctoral research at the University of York before winning an Italian government scholarship to research in Milan with Umberto Eco and an ensuing scholarship from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique to research in Paris with Roland Barthes. He soon became the leading authority on postwar Italian art music, in particular that of Luciano Berio, his long-time friend and collaborator for whom he played the role of intellectual provocateur until the composer's death in 2003. Appointed lecturer in music at Sussex University in 1973, David served as Head of Department for eight years, was Sub-Dean of the School of English and American Studies (1991-94) and achieved the rank of professor in 1994 before taking early retirement in 2004 from the institution but never from his research or public appearances. Indeed he was due to give yet another Glyndebourne talk on Cosė fan tutte just three days alter his untimely death to the accumulative physical stresses of fighting off AIDS, against all the odds, for over 20 years. He will be greatly missed.

Dr Nicholas McKay
Department of Music, University of Sussex

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