About York Opera

History | Aims | Production values | The present | Who's who | Contact | Support

History of York Opera

York Opera, recently referred to by David Denton in the Yorkshire Post as ‘one of the UK’s most highly regarded amateur companies’, was formed in 1966 under the name of City Opera Group, York. It was created to fill a perceived gap in the musical life of the city: while there were two first-rate amateur companies performing musicals, there was no opportunity for those wanting to sing opera. The company’s first productions were of operetta, but we gradually moved on to more vocally demanding works and, in 1986, moved our main annual production into the York Theatre Royal.

In the 40 years of its existence York Opera has brought many operas to the city that would not otherwise have been seen here. Carl Orff’s ‘The Moon’ was performed in 1972 and again in 1996. Other rarities that have had at least two productions are Puccini’s ‘Gianni Schicchi’ and Vaughan Williams’ ‘Hugh the Drover’. Further 20th century works have been Britten’s ‘Albert Herring’ and ‘Peter Grimes’ (the latter probably our greatest and most rewarding achievement), and the world première of Hans Gal’s ‘Rich Claus, Poor Claus’ (Die beiden Klaas).

York Opera is a chorus-based society, so our regular fare includes ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’, ‘I Pagliacci’, ‘Nabucco’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘Aida’ and ‘Carmen’. In addition to these large-scale works we have also staged Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’, ‘Marriage of Figaro’ and ‘Don Giovanni’ and we regularly produce Gilbert and Sullivan operas. The lighter works not only provide variety of style, but also help to subsidise the more demanding repertoire.

Aims of York Opera

York Opera’s main aim is to bring opera of high quality to the people of York and its surrounding area. We perform mainly at the Theatre Royal and the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, but over the past 40 years we have also produced operas in York Minster, Ripon Cathedral, Selby Abbey and the National Centre for Early Music. The choice of operas will depend on several requirements:

  1. Chorus involvement We are a chorus-based group and aim to perform a high proportion of large-chorus operas with full orchestra.
  2. Suitable solo roles The company has a large pool of talented soloists from across Yorkshire.
  3. Financial considerations Popular and lighter works are needed from time to time to offset the high cost of more serious works.
  4. New repertoire We are always prepared to consider unusual or rare works.
  5. Quality We are anxious to include works that will present a challenge, musically and/or dramatically and continue to raise the level of our performances.
  6. Variety We want our programme to contain a mixture of operatic styles, periods and nationalities.

What does a production involve?

The first stage is the selection of the opera. In York Opera this is done by the Management Committee, who take into account many factors, from cultural to financial, from historical to artistic. Once an opera is placed on the calendar then it is up to the Musical Director and the Production Director to audition applicants for principal roles and plan the four month rehearsal schedule.

The Director, whose job it is to oversee the whole project, organizes the production team (set design and construction, costume design and making, properties, publicity – including poster and programme design - lighting and sound, and stage management) whilst the Musical Director begins working with principals and chorus on the music and gathers the orchestra.

Once progress has been made on the music the Director takes over floor rehearsals and the acting begins. Rehearsals build up in intensity, all the production elements come to fruition, and the orchestra meets for band calls, the whole thing reaching a climax with the Sitzprobe (first meeting of cast and orchestra), the technical run, the dress rehearsal in the theatre and then …… the first night.

York Opera in the present

York Opera currently consists of approximately 70 singing members – this is not to mention numerous Friends, Associate Members, Orchestral Musicians and Technical volunteers, whose vital support is gratefully received. The company can now draw on a substantial list of principals, both amateur and professional, some local and some who travel in from across the region. With the range of work produced, however, there are regular opportunities for younger and developing singers to step into principal roles. In our recent production of ‘The Gondoliers’, for example, the soloists included 8 young singers in their debut roles for York Opera.

As the cost of producing opera on a grand scale has increased over the years, so, too, has the effort put into fundraising and publicity. There are now various sub-committees within the company (see who's who for more details), where the skills and expertise of the members benefit new projects. The group also benefits from good relations with York Theatre Royal and the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, and with other amateur companies who use them.

Who runs York Opera?

York Opera has honorary officers, general and social committees, and directors for every show. See our who's who page for details of the current team.

Contact York Opera

For further information, contact the Secretary:

Chloe Crowder
Secretary, York Opera
5 Long Meadows
North Yorkshire

Tel: 01765 606384

Email: secretary@yorkopera.org

Support York Opera

York Opera are always grateful for support of any kind, from a few hours of set building to donations and sponsorship. Please see our support and join pages for more details of how you can help York Opera maintain their high standards.

History | Aims | Production values | The present | Who's who | Contact | Support

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