Portrait image: John DuffusWith a ten-year background at the BBC in London and with Scottish Opera, John Duffus arrived in Hong Kong in 1979 as the most experienced performing arts manager then to work in the territory. He had been appointed the fifth general manager of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in as many years. Celebrating its 50th anniversary as a professional ensemble in 2024, it has now developed as the finest in Asia.

The early years of the Philharmonic were full of problems and many disasters. A first-class honours Music graduate, Duffus had come to Hong Kong with a brief to solve these issues and set the orchestra on an international footing. With typical Scottish grit and determination, he overcame most of them, helping the Philharmonic become a true community orchestra with a growing international reputation.

Remaining in Hong Kong after his eight years with the Philharmonic, he describes more adventures presenting concerts and recitals around Asia with such artists as Pavarotti, Domingo, Carreras, Kiri Te Kanawa, Isaac Stern, Yo-Yo Ma and a host of others. He organised the spectacular Three Tenors concert in Beijing’s Forbidden City in 2001 and Pavarotti’s final concert before a paying public in 2005.

As managing director of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Asian companies, he helped bring CATS and Phantom of the Opera to Hong Kong. He later established his own arts consultancy working with the Hong Kong Tourist Association and at the start of the West Kowloon Cultural District, both requiring much problem-solving. Most of the details in this book have never before been published.