John Tooley was General Director of the Royal Opera House 1970–88. He succeeded David Webster in the role, having worked with Webster as Assistant to the General Administrator 1955–60 and Assistant General Administrator 1960–70. He has played a crucial role in the development of opera, music and ballet in the UK.
Tooley was born in 1924 in Rochester. He studied at Repton and Magdalene College, Cambridge, and served with the Rifle Brigade 1943–7. He began his career in music administration as secretary with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama 1952–5. Since leaving the Royal Opera House he has served as director of such institutions as the Britten Estate 1989–97, Welsh National Opera 1992–2000, Almeida Theatre 1997–2002 and the London Philharmonic Orchestra 1998–2010. He was president of the Salisbury Festival 1988–2005, chairman of the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation 1995–2008 and general adviser to the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts 1993–2008, in addition to other positions. He was made Commendatore of the Italian Republic in 1976 and knighted in 1979.
Tooley pioneered the development of a closer relationship between the Royal Opera House and opera houses around the world, enabling the international exchange of productions. Under his directorship The Royal Opera developed lasting partnerships with some of the greatest singers of the 20th century, and The Royal Ballet commissioned key repertory works, including Manon, Mayerling and A Month in the Country.
News and features
A new donation to our Collections reveals a historic passion for that most archetypally British of things - queuing.
Former General Director honoured at performance of Tosca.
Bryan Westwood's portrait of Sir John Tooley
John Tooley, General Director of the Royal Opera House 1970 - 1988
John Tooley at the unveiling of his restored portrait
Alex Beard and John Tooley
Plácido Domingo, John Tooley and The Queen Mother after the Gala performance of Manon Lescaut, 3 May 1983
John Schlesinger, John Tooley and the Duke and Duchess of Kent at the post-performance party after the premiere of Les Contes d'Hoffmann (1980) in the Crush Room, Royal Opera House. Photograph from the Donald Southern Photographic Collection
Monica Mason and John Tooley
John Tooley and Margot Fonteyn cutting the Taglioni cake on 30 May 1981
Unveiling of Bryan Westwood's portrait of Sir John Tooley, November 1982 at the Royal Academy