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British statistician and former Chairman of the Royal Opera House Claus Moser dies

German-born academic, civil servant and life peer made a huge contribution to public life.

By Alasdair Steven (Music writer)

5 September 2015 at 2.20pm | Comment on this article

Claus Moser, who has died following a short illness, had a significant impact on institutions including the British Museum and the Royal Opera House, as well as on public life generally.

We have received the following message from the Moser family: ‘Claus Moser died peacefully, aged 92, on the morning of 4 September following a stroke a week earlier. He was in Switzerland where he was on holiday in one of his most loved places with his wife Mary, family and friends. During his short illness he was looked after with exceptional and loving care by the staff at the Kantonsspital, Chur.’

Claus Moser became Chairman of the Royal Opera House in 1974, aged 52. He took over from Lord Drogheda, a long-standing holder of the post. Moser had come to Britain from Berlin in his youth and was a talented pianist, who studied under Louis Kentner. During the war he served with the Royal Air Force, and subsequently forged a distinguished career as a civil servant, an academic and in the City. These qualities were invaluable throughout his time at Covent Garden, as in the 1980s when the ROH faced many demands to widen its audience and curb costs. Moser dealt with both the authorities in Whitehall and the media in a deft and authoritative manner, his always-courteous remarks delivered with a winning smile.

Moser was always keen to bring international conductors to The Royal Opera, and with the generous agreement of the Music Director Colin Davis, figures including Karl Böhm, Carlos Kleiber, Carlo Maria Giulini and Claudio Abbado came to be associated with the Royal Opera House.

Moser was a gracious host at many royal galas, especially at the Silver Jubilee Gala in 1977 when the entire Royal Family attended a performance starring Nureyev and Fonteyn. Moser attended performances regularly and was approachable to staff both Front of House and back stage. In 1986 Paul and Helen Hamlyn worked with Moser to inaugurate the Paul Hamlyn Performances, which provided a first experience of ballet and opera at a minimal cost.

Apart from navigating many financial challenges, Moser had to oversee many internal political troubles, including union unrest and cancelled performances. He chaired the panel that sought a successor to General Director of the Royal Opera House, John Tooley. The appointment of Jeremy Isaacs was confirmed in 1987.

Moser retired as chairman in 1987 and a tribute performance of Le nozze di Figaro was given in his honour.

Simon Robey, current Chairman of the Royal Opera House, said, ‘Claus was a legendary figure, and a legendary Chairman, of the ROH. He was the first person I sought out for advice when I became Chairman. I continued to look to him, and look up to him, with admiration, respect and great affection. Somehow he managed to combine deep knowledge, huge wisdom and a great sense of fun. He loved the ROH and we loved him. I will miss him greatly.’

By Alasdair Steven (Music writer)

5 September 2015 at 2.20pm

This article has been categorised Off stage and tagged chairman, Claus Moser, obituary, ROH, ROH history

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