A FOUNDER member of York Opera has died, aged 90.

Roy Gittins, formerly of Dringhouses, who leaves a daughter Rachel and son Paul, directed about 40 operas over a quarter of a century, said Pauline Marshall, a fellow founder member.

“His contribution to York Opera and thereby to the musical and artistic life of York is immense and he will be remembered with great affection and gratitude.”

She said Roy had been head of chemistry at Tadcaster Grammar School but had had a lifelong love of theatre, initially as an amateur actor.

Then he was introduced by teaching colleague John Warburton to a group of young singers who were about to ‘graduate’ from the York Youth Operatic and Choral Society and could not find a company in York to suit their love of opera and operetta. He became their mentor as they formed City Opera Group in 1966, when he became its first chairman.

She said he directed Vaughan Williams’ unjustly neglected English ‘folk’ opera ‘Hugh the Drover’, which was highly praised by the composer’s widow, Ursula Vaughan Williams who came to see it.

After working for many years in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre he oversaw the move of major productions to the York Theatre Royal, when its name changed to York Opera.

*Roy’s funeral takes place at Tadcaster Methodist Church at 11am next Wednesday.