Face to face with Tony Britten

In her latest Face to Face interview, KAREN BETHELL talks to Holt Festival chairman Tony Britten, who, as a composer, producer, writer and director, has worked on theatre, TV and film productions ranging from the Rocky Horror Show to Robocop.

In her latest Face to Face interview, KAREN BETHELL talks to Holt Festival chairman Tony Britten, who, as a composer, producer, writer and director, has worked on theatre, TV and film productions ranging from the Rocky Horror Show to Robocop. TV ads penned by Tony include jingles for Hellmann's and the Halifax, but probably his best known composition is a tune familiar to football fans everywhere - the UEFA Champions League theme song . . .

A talented singer from a young age, Tony's first starring role was as a 13-year-old soloist performing in a Debussy opera at Covent Garden.


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He went on to study piano and singing at the Royal College of Music and, after graduating, worked on West End shows as a musical director, also enjoying a stint as music supervisor for legendary musical producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh.

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A spell as arranger and musical director on the long-running musical Guys and Dolls was followed by work on films and TV shows ranging from Oliver Twist to the Scarlett Pimpernell.

Keen to branch out on his own, Tony then began concentrating on composing in his own right, creating music for The Saint, The Irish RM, Once upon a time in the North, and the 1994 BBC mini series Grushko.

During the 1990s, he also worked as an arranger and producer with recording artists including Judy Collins, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Holt Festival headliner Elkie Brooks, with whom he became great friends.

He then formed Music Theatre London, which aimed to create contemporary, accessible versions of classic operas. These included the Marriage of Figaro, which was filmed as a three-part situation comedy.

Twenty years ago, Tony wrote and directed his first film, based on the classic Puccini opera La Boheme, and, after moving to Brinton 15 years ago, he set up Capriol Films, making low budget music and arts films which have been screened by channels including Sky Arts.

These have so far included a re-working of the Verdi opera Falstaff, a drama about the English composer Peter Warlock and a documentary charting the life of Gilbert and Sullivan star George Grossmith.

Tony, who recently topped off his UEFA success by writing the TV and stadium music for the Champions Hockey League, has a number of projects in the pipeline, including a feature film set on and around Cromer pier, new versions of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni and Strauss's Die Fledermaus, and several music documentaries and drama projects.

For the past few months, he has also been working on putting together the programme for Holt's inaugural summer festival, which kicks off on August 3 and includes an eclectic mix of music, comedy, literature, art, cinema and theatre at various town venues.

For more information, visit www.holtfestival.org Tickets are available by phoning 01263 712635, email boxoffice@holtfestival.org or from the box office at Cockertons, Market Place.

What is the best thing about your job?

Being able to make the films that I want to make.

And the worst?

Not having the funds to make the films that I want to make!

Where to you go to unwind?

To the pub.

What is your favourite Norfolk building?

I think Salthouse Church - not in a deeply religious way, but because it is so otherworldy. Because of the light, and where it is, I think it is quite magical.

What is the one thing you would change about north Norfolk?

I'm sure I moan every day about one thing or another, but I can't think of a single thing!

What is your greatest achievement?

I'm hoping it's yet to come.

And your proudest moment?

Probably my mother being able to see The Marriage of Figaro just before she died.

What is the one thing you would change about yourself?

I'd give up smoking.

Have you ever done anything outrageous?

How long have you got?!

Who or what is the love of your life?

My girlfriend Mary - she's very lovely and extremely long-suffering, which is a perfect combination.

Whom do you most admire?

It is a very long list, but, if I had to choose just one person, it would be Martin Scorsese.

What makes you angry?

People who don't reply to emails and phone messages.

Favourite book, film and TV programme?

Book: Brideshead Revisited, film: Some Like it Hot and TV programme, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

How would you like to be remembered?

I don't like to be defined as a person by my work, but I'd like to think people got some pleasure out of it.

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