By Peter Walters
2020 sees North Norfolk Chamber Opera celebrate its 30th anniversary, and to help us celebrate in style, we’ve chosen one of the lightest and brightest pieces in the repertoire: Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld. This delightful operetta has not seen the light of day in Norfolk since we last produced it in 1997, so it’s high time it was seen again.
The work, first produced at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, Paris, on 21 October 1858, is a parody of the ancient legend of Orpheus & Eurydice. If you’re not familiar with the legend, don’t worry, there’s lots and lots of comic goings on to enjoy as well as some wonderful music. If you are familiar with the legend however, there’s even more to enjoy!
Our society was formed in 1990 by Janet Bryant-Heron who, having moved to Sheringham from Cambridge, found that she missed the opera scene so much, she thought she’d jolly well better do something about it, and NNCO was born. She’s now our Life President and was still singing when we produced Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro last year.
Since its formation the society has produced works by composers as diverse as Gay, Britten, Purcell, Berkeley, Finzi, Rutter, Pergolesi, Lehar, Handel, Donizetti, Puccini as well as Mozart and Offenbach.
Chairman Des Holmes says, “We are very proud that we have kept our society running for thirty years now. Several other operatic societies based in Norfolk have closed but thanks to the efforts of our members, producers and music directors we have survived. We’re also delighted to acknowledge a generous grant of £2,000 towards the cost of our orchestra from the North Norfolk District Council Arts & Culture Fund.”
Our new production of Orpheus will re-unite music director Mark Jones, and stage director Paul Hands.
The two, who have not worked together for five years, will be taking charge of the artistic side of things, while Crispin Clark, who has done such a splendid job over the years, will once again be our set designer and builder. Mark and Paul were associated with the Auden Theatre in Holt from its opening, and influenced its design and layout.
Their previous work together includes such shows as West Side Story, Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, as well as opera, their most recent being Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Mark trained at the Royal College of Music and was twice winner of the Sir Adrian Boult Conducting Scholarship, and is also much admired for his work as Director of Fakenham Choral Society. Paul has the distinction of having worked with BAFTA award-winning Norfolk actress, Olivia Colman, who thanked him for his contribution in her speech.
We have two very exciting innovations for our anniversary year. First, in addition to our usual three performances at the Auden Theatre in April, we will be offering two al fresco performances in the grounds of the National Trust property at Sheringham Park. These performances will be based on our Auden Theatre production, but suitably adapted to make the most of the outdoor location.
This year we’re inaugurating a charity twinning initiative in which local businesses will be supporting us. They and the charities which they nominate will benefit from the publicity & promotion we are generating, and will also have the opportunity to address theatregoers from the stage prior to each performance.
Businesses involved are The Mortgage Bureau which has branches throughout the region, Shirehall Plain Antiques in Holt, and Sowerby’s Estate Agents which also has branches in Holt and elsewhere in the region. The charities they will be supporting are respectively, Alzheimer’s Society, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, plus one still to be decided.
Performances of Orpheus in the Underworld at the Auden Theatre, Holt, will be on 16, 17, 18 April, (https://audentheatre.co.uk) and the two al fresco performances at Sheringham Park will be on 12 and 14 June, (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sheringham-park)
The society welcomes singers in all voice ranges. Principal roles are by audition; no audition is required for those wishing to sing in the chorus. Backstage and front of house volunteers will also be enthusiastically welcomed.