Former teacher and Wexford Festival Opera chairman
Jim Golden: born July 6th, 1935; died June 15th, 2013
Jim Golden, who has died after a short illness aged 77, was a former chairman of Wexford Festival Opera, and vice-principal of St Peter’s College, Wexford. As a teacher he was gentle and caring, and kept in contact with many students long after they left school. In the world of opera his defensive passion for the festival meant he could be gruff, even sharp at first. But he struck long friendships with audience members and visiting artists, and hosted many a post-performance gathering that lasted into the wee hours.
He was born in Kilkenny to parents who were both teachers, and studied in Dublin at St Patrick’s Training College and later at UCD before moving to Wexford, where he joined the staff of St Peter’s College in 1961 to teach Irish and mathematics.
Front of house
It was through a fellow teacher that he first became involved in the town’s international opera festival.
His first responsibility was props. There was no budget, so he learnt how to produce fake money, create displays for a banquet out of jelly beans and cotton wool, fabricate weapons, produce a boar’s head.
He moved from backstage to front of house and became box office manager in 1972, joined the festival council in 1975, became vice-chairman in 1976 and chairman from 1980 to 1985. “I’m a teacher,” he explained. “I don’t have my own money to give to the festival. What I do is save them employing a person.”
The years of his chairmanship saw the hiring of Elaine Padmore as artistic director – she was to have the longest reign in that role apart from the festival’s founder, Dr Tom Walsh – the experiment of an out-of-season regional tour of Massenet’s Grisélidis with Irish principals and conductor, and the facilitation of Young Irish Artists’ productions of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and Poulenc’s Dialogue of the Carmelites, which helped launch the career of director Ben Barnes.
His own taste was for Puccini, Verdi and Donizetti, but he came to like some of the festival’s adventures in 20th-century repertoire.
And he approved of Stephen Pimlott’s controversial, widely panned 1983 updating of Marschner’s Hans Heiling.
He also worked with the Wexford Light Opera Society, and was a supporter of the Wexford Sinfonia and the Gateway Orchestra.
He is survived by his sisters Noreen, Marette and Jo.