YORK Opera is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, an affirmation of opera's timeless ability to inspire, entrance and entertain through the generations.
Since being founded in 1966, York Opera has produced more than 100 operas, shows and concerts, all of them listed on the company website, from the first performance of Operettas Are Fun in 1967 to the double-headed production of Amahl And The Night Visitors and The First Nowell last Christmas.
During this time, the group has turned its talents to all aspects of opera, ranging from the epic grand operas by Bizet, to the light operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan; from the ever popular music of Mozart, to rarely performed works, such as Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes.
Seldom has an opera proved too ambitious for the group, which remains committed to its mission of providing talented amateur singers with the chance to perform the music they love and ensuring opera remains a part of the York performing arts community.
When asked which of its many performances he remembered most fondly, York Opera president Clive Goodhead found it hard to narrow down his selection to only one. “We’ve put on some truly special productions over the years," he says. "Our debut performance in the York Theatre Royal, of Puccini’s Turandot, was a challenge both from a logistical and artistic perspective, but its success set the stage for all our future Theatre Royal shows.
"Our production of Vaughn Williams’ Hugh The Drover was particularly memorable because of the performance when his widow, Ursula, was in the audience. We’ve even been involved in the premiere performance of Rich Claus, Poor Claus by Han Gal.”
Clive believes many people deserve acknowledgement for their work for York Opera over five decades. “Praise must go to those to whom we have awarded our honorary membership, which include musical directors John Warburton, Les Bresnan and Alistair Jaimeson, and stage director Roy Gittens," he says.
"But a special mention must go to Pauline Marshall, our lead soprano for many years before becoming chairman for many years more, all the while directing many of our past shows. She was a founding member and, unless I am mistaken, has gone on to provide 50 years of unbroken service to the group.”
York Opera plans to celebrate its golden jubilee year with two special performances. First will be Tales Of Deception And Disguise, a series of operatic extracts to be performed in the round at York Guildhall on April 27 to 29 at 7.30pm.
The featured operas in this spiritual successor to 2014's Tales Of Love will be Verdi's Falstaff, Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, Mozart's The Marriage Of Figaro and Gilbert and Sullivan's Princess Ida. Rehearsals began in January at Lidgett Grove Methodist Church, under the musical direction of Steve Griffiths, and Hilary Dyson, Clive Marshall, Pauline Marshall and John Soper all will be involved in this show.
In November, the company will present Turandot as its first show at the newly refurbished York Theatre Royal, reviving memories of its Theatre Royal debut production of Turandot's work.
Chairman Hilary Dyson says: “It is truly a privilege to be chairman of a group as unique and special as York Opera in its 50th year. I first joined for the 2004 production of Strauss's Die Fledermaus and I haven’t looked back. I’ve made some truly wonderful friends and been presented with so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had elsewhere.
“You would struggle to find any amateur group throughout the country with the talent and ambition displayed by this group, and York has been made a musically richer city these past 50 years because of York Opera. The society’s tradition of performing top-quality opera is one that we'll continue to honour not just this year, but for the many years to come.”
Tickets for Tales Of Deception And Disguise can be booked on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk