Helen McCarthy, Development Manager
Helen McCarthy knows Glyndebourne inside out. She has worked alongside many of Glyndebourne's directors including Nicholas Lehnhoff, Peter Sellars and Graham Vick and has seen the debuts of countless young singers at the start of their careers including David Daniels, Renée Fleming, Amanda Roocroft and Simon Keenlyside.
Now Development Manager at Glyndebourne, Helen reflects here on her career at Glyndebourne that started as assistant stage manager nearly 20 years ago.
As a child growing up in Surrey, Helen had second-hand experience of Glyndebourne through her parent’s visits in the 70s. She was always involved in theatre and music as a child and went on to study for a Music and Drama BA before going on to gain an Advanced Certificate in Stage Management and Design.
She admits that Glyndebourne always held a certain mystique for her but as a self-confessed ‘rebellious student’, she was reluctant to join the company early on in her career. It was Dave Locker (now Technical Director) who persuaded Helen on board as an assistant stage manager in 1988. Helen was hooked, worked as a Deputy Stage Manager for several Festivals and Tours and was taken on permanently in 1994.
At the start of her career the new opera house was not built and the Company was significantly smaller - some staff even residing on site during the season. As a stage manager she explains that the move to the new opera house was an important transformation as well as a challenge. “The way we put on opera has become much more sophisticated. The feel has changed, but in the old house there was simply not enough room. It’s been such a success I don’t regret anything about the move to the new building.”
After several years as Administrator of the Touring Company, Helen moved into the Development Department five years ago. Her current role involves interacting with people who love both opera and the unique ethos of Glyndebourne. It suits her well. “Our donors love the arts. They are incredibly knowledgeable about what they see at Glyndebourne and are really enthusiastic and interested in opera.”
Looking to next year’s Festival, Helen confessed: “I will be anxiously watching the complex curtain changes in Onegin and feeling for the Stage Managers! That aside, I’m really looking forward to our new commission Love and Other Demons. New work is absolutely integral to what Glyndebourne does. It’s so vital to be brave in opera and we are carrying on our long tradition of supporting new work.”
What advice would Helen give to aspiring Stage Managers?
She recommends that those wanting a career in Stage Management gain ground by looking for work straight out of college at any level. Her time working with various touring opera companies as well as Glyndebourne on Tour was an invaluable way to learn about all aspects of theatre work. As she says, “The hardest work is really the best way of getting good experience.” Helen is proud of having worked with an excellent team during her time backstage. “The stage management team is held in a very high regard at Glyndebourne, something that is very much noticed by directors who work here.”
Interview conducted in 2008