Lady Walton 1926 – 2010

Posted on March 23, 2010

It’s with great sadness that we learned that Lady Walton, widow of the composer Sir William Walton, and a charismatic figure in the world of gardening and music, passed away peacefully at her home, La Mortella, on the Island of Ischia over the weekend. She was 83 years old.

She passed away at the home she and Sir William built together, and which after the great composer’s death in 1983 became a living monument to his work through the creation of the Fondazione William Walton e La Mortella. The Foundation had two main aims – to promoting musical education and performance by young artists, and the protection of the garden with the purpose of promoting a love of nature and gardening.

La Mortella opened its doors to the public in 1992; since then the number of visitors has increased yearly, reaching a peak of 70,000 in 2007. Many of those visitors had the unforgettable experience of encountering Lady Walton as she worked tirelessly in the garden, discussing projects with the gardeners, pulling the odd weed, stopping to admire a flower, or greeting a visitor and telling a colorful story about a particular plant or about her life with William.

Lady Walton set-up the annual Master Classes on the performance of opera: the Actor-Singer course which ran for over ten years, and always included a wonderful concluding party at the house. She showed tremendous zeal in promoting William’s compositions and gave brilliant performances of the speaking role in Facade despite never learning to read music. Susana also negotiated the successful sale of the manuscripts of major Walton works to Yale.

Thanks to her efforts, the Fondazione now organizes visits to the garden and public concerts, courses for young musicians, music festivals, and masterclasses. Until recently, Lady Walton continued to manage every aspect of the garden and the Fondazione’s many projects, the most recent of which was the creation of the “Greek Theatre”, an open-air amphitheatre with a magnificent view of Forio, filled with aromatic plants. In this theatre, symphonic and operatic concerts, showcasing young artists, are held during the summer months.

Read more in Gramophone Magazine, BBC Music Magazine, Classic FM Online, and The Telegraph