Opera is a musical genre that continually proves its timelessness, entrancing audiences of veterans and newcomers alike. Perhaps nothing better demonstrates its ability to inspire and entertain throughout the generations then the fact that this year York Opera celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Since being founded in 1966, York Opera has produced over a hundred operas, shows and concerts. During this time the group has turned their talents to all aspects of the genre, from the epic grand operas from greats such as Bizet, to the light operattas of Gilbert and Sullivan.
From the ever popular music of Mozart, to rarely performed works such as Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes. Rarely has an opera proved too ambitious for the group, and it 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.
York Opera plan to celebrate their Golden Jubilee year with two special performances. First will be Tales of Disguise and Deception, performed in the round at The Guildhall.
Then to follow, they hope to replicate the success of their production of Puccinni’s Turandot, their first ever show at the York Theatre Royal in 1986, by making it their first show to be performed at the newly refurbished Theatre Royal this autumn.
Four excerpts from four operas
In Tales of Disguise and Deception, York Opera, as they don their disguises and act out their deceptions, will be performing four excerpts from four well-loved operas.
L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love) is Donizetti’s best-known opera, and a tale of the chaos caused by a travelling merchant and his love potion. The following excerpt from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is set near the opera’s end when Countess Almaviva and her maid Susanna disguise themselves in each other’s clothes in order to expose the infidelity of the Count.
The third excerpt, from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida, sees Prince Hilarion having to secretly infiltrate a women’s college to claim the plighted love of the titular princess.
The evening will finish with an excerpt from Falstaff, the last opera from Verdi, which is his version of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and tells of the ageing Lord Falstaff’s attempts to seduce two ladies of Windsor.
York Opera prides itself on how it gives many of their talented members a chance to show their talent, and demonstrate their musical and storytelling abilities. There are effectively four casts for each excerpt, some of which focus on the main characters, others involving the whole York Opera chorus.
It will provide audiences with a chance to hear opera in all its forms, in a unique and intimate setting.
Two of their newest members are Nicky Burrows and Elisha Lofthouse. Whispers have it that Nicky will be performing the role of Adina in The Elixir of Love, and Elisha will be performing Nanetta in Falstaff.
Both have been singing from a young age (Nicky having performed with Opera North aged 12 for their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and are relishing the opportunity.
“It is the first time that I have been involved in a production of operatic extracts focusing on a central theme,” says Nicky. “I am enjoying learning the different operas and immersing myself in the fantastic range of music.”
Standard exceptionally high
Elisha, when asked how this productions compares to others she has been in, says: “The standard of the singing is exceptionally high. Everyone has been extremely welcoming and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning the music.
“It’s also been really interesting doing a production that is staged in the round. You hope it will make the performance more immersive and personal which is something rarely experienced in opera.”
Chairman Hilary Dyson says: “It is truly a privilege to be chairman of a group as unique and special as York Opera in their 50th year.
“I first joined for their 2004 production of Straus’ 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.”
The society’s tradition of performing top quality opera is one that we will continue to honour not just this year, but for the many years to come.