As this week would have seen the World Première performances of Madeleine – our 50th Anniversary commission, music written by David Hackbridge Johnson – I thought that this link might be of interest. Madeleine will, of course, get its first performance. It's just a question of when? JB.

This year, 2020, is Surrey Opera's 50th Anniversary and our Anniversary, bone china, mugs are now available. Please contact - Jonathan Butcher - to place your order.

However - it is with much regret that, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, our production of Don Giovanni is postponed until next year, 2021.

Sadly, there seems no hope of performing our World Première of Madeleine this year, given the continuing uncertain situation in the theatrical world due to the pandemic. We are endeavouring to negotiate dates and venues in 2021, so watch this space!

The Company was to have staged the World Première of David Hackbridge Johnson’s dramatic three act opera Madeleine based on the true story of Madeleine Hamilton Smith, with a libretto sourced, adapted and written by Surrey Opera’s Artistic Director Jonathan Butcher. Performances would have been at The Harlequin Theatre, Redhill on Thursday 26th and Saturday 28th November at 2pm and 7pm.

Surrey Opera 50th Year

50 years ago - on Thursday 18th June 1970, Surrey Opera (Surrey Opera Group) gave its first ever performance - The Magic Flute - at the Market Hall, Redhill.

Let’s celebrate – but at a social distance!

If anyone has any information about Janet Mallion and/or William (Bill) Hamilton – Queen of the Night and Speaker back in 1970 – please contact: Jonathan Butcher.

Surrey Opera: Falstaff 1988

This photo shows a posed rehearsal shot in Micklefield School, Reigate (probably for the Surrey Mirror) of some of the cast from our Falstaff production back in 1988. Arthur Coomber took the title role (complete with fat suit), Lawrie Reed, standing, was Pistol and Simon Davies Bardolph. The boy is Falstaff’s Page but, as yet, I can’t locate his name. It’s neither mentioned in the actual programme nor in our 21st Anniversary Book. An embarrassing error on our part and he and his family must have been pretty peeved at the omission.

Apologies seem a bit feeble now. The Page, whoever he was, is probably in his 40’s now! If anyone can shed any light on the matter I should be most grateful. The production was directed by Stephen Medcalf and the design, by Carmen Holender, caused much comment, particularly the hanging mobiles, which represented all sorts of excesses etc. in Falstaff’s life. The only problem was that our audiences weren’t always sure what they were, but at least it kept them interested in the production. Looking through the programme I notice that the orchestra numbered some 48 players. Those were the days and just what was needed for Verdi! JB.

Surrey Opera: Hansel and Gretel 1992

The above photo shows Linda Gregson and Susan Gritton in our 1992 production of Hansel & Gretel. The brilliant and entertaining production was directed and designed by Chris Cowell; his first ‘assignment’ for Surrey Opera. The production was so successful that we revived it in 1993, with a slightly different cast. The set was built and painted in the Salisbury Playhouse workshop by a friend of mine, David Bates (and his Co.), and so good were Chris’s design drawings that when the set arrived in Croydon it was exactly like Chris’s model box, down to the last small detail!

We auditioned hundreds of children, from the Croydon area, for the production, and ended up with an amazing ‘team’, some of whom had never had any experience of singing or performing before. After the run of performances in 1992 we needed somewhere to store the set for a year, so I made a rather general and half-hearted plea to the choir I was conducting at the time – Concordia, who were based in Crawley – and, guess what, someone came up to me at the end of the rehearsal and said we could use her school in Maidenbower for the storage – no problem. People are so kind!

Surrey Opera: Peter Grimes 2005

The photo above shows Jane Streeton as Ellen Orford and George Kendrick as John, The Apprentice, in our 2005 production of Peter Grimes. Back in 1984 we had also staged Peter Grimes. Jane Streeton has sung many roles for us over the years and has remained a loyal supporter of Surrey Opera, even when she has not been on stage with us!

George Kendrick was a pupil at Whitgift School, Croydon at the time of our 2005 production and, curiously, found himself standing next to the original Apprentice, from Britten’s première production, at our after ‘show’ Reception at The Harlequin, Redhill. The late Anthea Hall, our wonderful Administrator for so many years, was ‘fixing’ the orchestra for Grimes, when she found herself speaking to a trombonist, by the name of Steve Thompson, who said that he very much regretted not being able to play in our production, as his uncle, Leonard Thompson, had been Britten’s original Apprentice. Well, this was too good an opportunity to miss so I, of course, got in touch with Leonard and asked him if he would be able to attend one of our performances, which he duly did – but discreetly, as I didn’t want George to know. At the said Reception I asked Leonard to place himself subtly close to George and after saying a few, well deserved, thank yous to folk I asked George if he had any idea who might be standing next to him and, would you believe it, he guessed who it was. Leonard was, understandably, thrilled and so were we – i.e. that he had been able to join us and share a rather special moment. JB.

Surrey Opera: Marriage of Figaro 1971

The above photo, of SO’s second ever production (in 1971) of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro shows, from left to right, Andrew Glass as Count Almaviva, Frank Pigeon as Antonio (the Gardener), William Hamilton as Figaro, Rosemary Brown/Camden as Susanna and Janette Holt (now Ives) as the Countess. Rosemary’s husband Leighton Camden directed the production. He went on to direct several more productions for the Company and he also sang several leading roles for us. He was an excellent lyric tenor.

Many years later Leighton returned to Surrey Opera and, graciously, joined the ranks of the Chorus. Most notably in The Yeoman of the Guard. Leighton knew his G & S and was always great value.

This photo was given to us by Frank Pigeon’s daughter, who kindly gave me Frank’s complete album of the productions in which he had performed. His wife, Rosemary, was also a singer and sung the role of 2nd Lady in The Magic Flute – SO’s first opera in 1970. Without Frank’s album we might not have any photographic record of those early years of Surrey Opera.

Surrey Opera: Magic Flute 1970

Russell Smythe – Papageno - and Janette Holt (now Ives) – Pamina - singing the Duet from The Magic Flute. Surrey Opera’s (then called the Surrey Opera Group) first production at the Market Hall, Redhill, June 1970

It’s not too late to get your 50th Anniversary Calendar? Only one month gone but, anyway, it’s much more of a momento than your average Calendar!

They are of a very high quality with a photo from every production over the last 50 years – plus more! “A really special keepsake for anyone who has performed with Surrey Opera." If you have sung in a SO production in the past, the chances are that you are featured somewhere on the Calendar.

Please email – to order your copy and request payment details. There are still a few left and we’d hate anyone to miss out.

Cost for the first calendar is £8 now and for subsequent copies £6 each.

Postage costs – 2nd Class £3.00 or 1st Class £3.55 – plus the envelope – at 30p.

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