The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden is home of two of the most famous opera and ballet companies in the world. In this official history, Frances Donaldson discusses Covent Garden's many legendary achievements - Der Rosenkavalier with Lotte Lehmann, the unparalleled partnership of Fonteyn and Nureyev, the recent Otello with Domingo. She follows the attitude of the English to opera and their Opera House, and the crusade for opera to be sung in English. She looks at the internal politics and at the often charismatic personalities who have worked at the Opera House: Thomas Beecham, George Solti, Maria Callas, Tito Gobbi, Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton. Underlying the story, despite the many successful seasons, are the ever-present problems of financial support and uncertainty of the future. The history is superbly well-documented from the Royal Opera House archives. Comments from journalists of the time -whose critical reviews sometimes led to singers of international acclaim refusing to return to Covent Garden - lend spice to this fine analysis of administrative and artistic management at the Garden.
Lady Donaldson of Kingsbridge (1907-1994), a British writer and biographer, was the daughter of Freddie Lonsdale, a playwright. She married John George Stuart Donaldson, Baron Donaldson of Kingsbridge (known as Jack), a left-wing intellectual, social worker, and dilettante Gloucestershire farmer in 1935. As the daughter of the playwright Frederick Lonsdale, she grew up in the frivolous world of 1920s café society, yet she became a committed socialist. As the wife of Lord Donaldson who was on the board of both London Opera houses and was subsequently Minister for the Arts, Frances Donaldson was at the cultural centre of British life.
Her body of work included topics such as farming, and biographies on writers Evelyn Waugh and P. G. Wodehouse, as well as on her father, Freddie. Her biography of King Edward VIII won the Wolfson Literary Award and was the basis for a six-part television series, "Edward and Mrs. Simpson," starring James Fox and Cynthia Harris.