It was a childhood trip with our father to see Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes that first fired my sister Jane Anthony’s passion for singing, particularly opera. Jane, who has died of thyroid cancer aged 62, said recently: “I thought opera was so glamorous. I still do.”
Jane was an inspirational musician and a regular member of Opera North’s chorus for 20 years. She also established herself as a singing teacher and became head of vocal studies at Leeds College of Music, where she created a series of ingenious opera productions, triumphing over meagre resources with her imagination and theatrical flair. Her many students remember her with affection and gratitude.
In 2004, she founded the Leeds Lieder+ festival, which has had many distinguished artistic directors and involved artists such as the pianist and accompanist Iain Burnside and the singers Janet Baker and Felicity Lott. Between festivals there was a regular flow of concerts, talks and workshops, with Jane always beavering in the background, inspired and inspiring. Despite her connections with the famous names of classical music, she was equally happy in a room of schoolchildren writing their own songs.
Always keen to share her passion for music and opera, and her own talents as singer, stage director and impresario, she established Young Opera Venture in 2012. This small professional company provides performing opportunities for recent singing graduates and also takes opera to a wider audience outside the big cities. Its success, including attracting support from Arts Council England, is a tribute to Jane’s vision and energy.
Jane was born and grew up in Leeds, daughter of Honor and David Anthony. Her musical abilities were evident from an early age, when she entered a singing competition at Leeds Civic Hall. She attended Leeds College of Music before studying music in London and Manchester. It was at Leeds that Jane met Gerald Wragg, whom she married in 1973. Their home in Headingley became a focal point for many musical people. Their son Michael was born in 1978, the same year Opera North was founded.
While building a successful musical career, Jane was also the linchpin of a very close family. She supported her mother in caring for her father throughout his longstanding depressive illness and later dementia.
She was divorced from Gerald in 1986. In 1999 she married Ian Killik, orchestral manager at Opera North.
Jane is survived by Michael, Ian and two grandchildren, and her two brothers, John and me.