YORK Opera will celebrate its golden anniversary in style this autumn with a blockbuster performance of Puccini’s Turandot at York Theatre Royal.

The society is keen for new members of all experience levels to join at this exciting time, marking 50 years of giving music lovers from York and North Yorkshire the opportunity to take part in amateur operatic productions with the talent and production values of a professional production.

York Opera has encountered many challenges in that time but always has strived to ensure opera as an artistic medium can be appreciated and enjoyed by as many people as possible.

The society already consists of people from all backgrounds and experiences, from those who have joined this year to those who have been involved from the very beginning.

All are linked by none of these singers being paid professionals. Instead they come from a variety of professions, including teaching, farming and accountancy, among many others, but they all meet once a week to share their passion for opera with each other and to demonstrate their musical talents.

Celebrations began in April with Tales of Disguise and Deception at York Guildhall, where York Opera took the bold step to perform themed extracts from several well-known operas to enable many members to showcase their skills. The society then decided to follow this with a far more traditional choice for its golden anniversary production: Turandot.

One of the most famous and celebrated of all the grand operas, it will provide the cast with the chance to perform on a professional stage in front of a large audience with a full orchestra, which is arguably how opera is best performed.

There is a commemorative reason, too, for picking Turandot. Puccini’s tale of the bloodthirsty princess, featuring the ever popular Nessun Dorma, was the first opera performed by York Opera at the Theatre Royal 30 years ago, laying the groundwork for the society to return there year after year to perform Bizet, Britten and Gilbert and Sullivan.

York Press:

Don't be deceived: this is definitely York Opera in Tales of Disguise and Deception at York Guildhall in April

Performing Turandot this year is made even more poignant, given that it will be York Opera’s first performance in the refurbished theatre. The need to adjust to a new stage and auditorium layout brings fresh excitement to the production as the old mixes with the new.

Chairman Hilary Dyson, who joined York Opera in 2004 for Die Fledermaus, is honoured to be guiding the society forward in this milestone year. “When you consider how few opportunities there are for amateur musicians throughout the country, let alone Yorkshire, to try their hand at opera, it's a wonderful achievement for York Opera still to be going strong after all these years," she says.

"It not only shows just how wonderfully talented our group is musically, but how dedicated they are behind the scenes. From the costume team to the stage designers, from the publicity team to the directors and musical directors who bring a show to life, everyone has played their part, leaving us in doubt that York Opera will be here for many more years to come.

"New members are still welcome to join for this production; an exciting opportunity to perform at the newly refurbished theatre”.

Turandot will be performed at York Theatre Royal from November 8 to 12. Further details can be found at yorkopera.org or by emailing secretary@yorkopera.org

By Michael Foster