Opera manager Joan Ingpen dies at 91

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LONDON -- Joan Ingpen, an influential classical music manager who played a major role in the career of Luciano Pavarotti, has died at age 91.

Ingpen died Dec. 29 after a short illness in her home town Hove, near Brighton, funeral director Eric de Chalon said Wednesday.

Ingpen represented Sir Georg Solti, the charismatic conductor, during the 1950s before she became artistic administrator of London's Royal Opera House in 1961. But she likely will be best remembered for bringing Pavarotti onto the world stage.

The sharp-thinking -- and occasionally sharp-tongued -- Ingpen hired Pavarotti in 1963 to stand in for Giuseppe Di Stefano in the role of Rodolfo in Puccini's "La Boheme" at Covent Garden. Earning great acclaim for his performances, Pavarotti, who died last year, went on to become the world's most popular tenor.

"She was a tough lady and somebody who commanded a lot of respect," said Jonathan Groves, director of Ingpen & Williams, the management agency she founded in 1946 and named after herself and her dachshund.

Born in London in 1916, Ingpen studied piano and joined the Royal Academy of Music but decided to train as an insurance clerk.

Passionate about classical music, she was a regular at London concerts and it was through her musical contacts that Ingpen joined the "good music" section of the Entertainments National Service Association, the wartime office that provided entertainment to British servicemen.

After 15 years of representing the likes of Solti, conductor Rudolf Kempe and soprano Joan Sutherland, Ingpen sold her business in 1961 and joined the Royal Opera House.

"I thought I'd much rather do something constructive," The Times of London quoted her as saying. "I'm not a saleswoman really, which, let's face it, is what you are as an agent."

Though sometimes criticized for being cold and difficult to deal with, Ingpen was popular with performers. Solti told officials at the Paris Opera that his joining as musical adviser was contingent upon Ingpen being found a role, too.

Ingpen went on to work at New York's Metropolitan Opera before retiring in 1987.

Ingpen was twice married and leaves no children.

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