ONLY one founder member of York Opera is still actively involved in the society's 50th anniversary year: Pauline Marshall.

Husband Clive is directing York Opera's golden celebration production, Puccini's last great opera, Turandot, at York Theatre Royal, but while the focus will be on the stage from Tuesday, Pauline will be as omnipresent as ever, keeping the society ticking over.

Elsewhere The Press has publicised next week's run of Turandot and its Peking story of the cold and beautiful Princess Turandot and the enigmas she poses to all suitors for her hand. So, instead, the spotlight here falls on Pauline, who was presented with Life Membership at York Opera's October gala dinner at the Novotel in recognition of her golden service. Service that has taken in multiple singing roles and directing all the society's Gilbert and Sullivan performances since 1993.

That night, she also spoke about the first ten years of the company's history, explaining how York Opera emerged from the City Opera Group, set up in York in December 1966.

York Press:

Pauline Marshall as Lady Macbeth, her favourite role

"There was no opera company in York performing operas at the time, though Gordon Pullin, a Latin teacher at Bootham School, did run the Yorkshire Chamber Opera who only did concert performances," recalls Pauline.

"There was also the York Youth Operatic and Choral Society, under John Warburton; I was part of that and we put on Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, so we did have a group of young people being taught, coached and coaxed into singing in a style that would lead to opera.

"We didn't want to do the repertoire that York Light Opera and York Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society [now York Musical Theatre Company] were doing. Instead we came together as a group of like-minded people who came to the end of York Youth days but, as accomplished singers, really wanted to stretch themselves. There were a lot of good things that emerged at the same time."

"It's called being young: youth and enthusiasm!" says Clive, who joined the society for Orpheus In The Underworld, the first fully staged production in 1968.

Pauline, who was born in Harrogate to a North Eastern family, moved to York at the age of nine in the 1950s, and attended Mill Mount Grammar School for Girls. "I didn't do music at A-level and studied German at Newcastle University but I kept singing," she recalls. So much so that, as Pauline Chadwick, she had a successful career as a professional soprano. "I did concerts and oratorio but I never moved from York," she recalls.

York Press:

Pauline Marshall in Orpheus In The Underworld

Like Clive, she appeared in the Orpheus production – as Eurydice – and went on to perform in no fewer than 36 York Opera productions, including Mistress Ford twice in Merry Wives and Lady Macbeth, Turandot and Ist Lady in The Magic Flute twice each too. Among other roles were Dido in Dido And Aeneas and Polly Peachum and later Mrs Peachum in The Beggar's Opera, which was to be last principal role in 1998.

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre played host to York Opera's main production each year until 1986 when the society switched to York Theatre Royal. Clive and Pauline have regularly directed the shows, he taking on the non-Gilbert and Sullivan ones. "Clive does the ones we exist for; I do the ones that keep us going and the ones that are good for emerging young singers, getting broken in in G&S works," she says.

"It's been an absolute delight and great fun too being involved with York Opera for all these years. If I'd gone further down the road of singing opera professionally, it would probably have been in the lighter roles, as my voice could fill the Joseph Rowntree Theatre but maybe not Covent Garden."

Instead, York Opera afforded Pauline the chance to sing all manner of roles, not least her favourite, Lady Macbeth in a 1978 production.

York Opera present Turandot at York Theatre Royal, November 8, 9 and 11 at 7.15pm and November 12, 4pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or at