A History of the North Norfolk Chamber Opera
By Founder Janet Bryant-Heron
Janet Bryant-Heron and Lizzie Williams started the group in 1989 because having moved from Cambridge, Janet missed the music and productions performed there so much.
Our first production was John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera performed at Blickling Hall in 1990; this was very successful, some of the original cast still being with the company. Both Lizzie Williams and Janet Bryant-Heron produced some of the early shows and we also performed in our own concerts between productions, sometimes in the autumn and sometimes in the summer.
In 1992 Jeffrey Davies directed A Dinner Engagement by Lennox Berkeley and has stage directed for us in many operas to date including Mozart’s The Impresario, Donizetti’s The Night Bell, The Marriage of Figaro and The Song in The Blickling Garden by Geoff Davidson in Kelling and at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich.
Geoff Davidson was our director for some years and The Song in the Blickling Garden was the World Premiere of his one act opera about the life and death of Ann Boleyn.
In the mid 90’s we were directed by Roy Arscott and also by David Kett and a number of operas were performed in the Little Theatre including Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld.
In 1999 we moved our performances to The Auden Theatre in Holt and we are very privileged to have the use of these great facilities which are part of Greshams School. Our first production there was The Life and Times of Mozart.
We have continued our interesting and challenging programmes until the present time.
Our works have incorporated composers such as Britten, Purcell, Mozart, Handel, Offenbach, Donizetti, Lehar and Puccini.
We have enjoyed working with the Norwich Early Dance Group in A Song in the Blickling Garden and in Pastime in Good Companye and later in Dido and Aeneas.
In 2007 Maggi Warren directed A Gala Night at the Operetta in the Auden Theatre and subsequently has directed our autumn concerts, as well as musical directing Orpheus and Euridice with Stage Director Jeffrey Davies, once more working with the Norwich Historic Dance Group.
In 2011 Susie Self (Musical Director) and Stephen Miles (Stage Director) created a stunning production of Suor Angelica by Puccini for us in the Auden Theatre and this was followed in 2012 by Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring.
2013 saw a change in style with Kurt Weil’s The Threepenny Opera produced in the round for us by Stephen Miles with a wonderful backdrop of London which can be seen in the archive on the website along with other photos.
Sky Carver subsequently joined Susie Selfe, as stage director, and this partnership culminated in the splendid Marriage of Figaro in April 2019.
Our new artistic pairing is Mark Jones, music director and Paul Hands, stage director. Mark is well known as music director of Fakenham Choral Society and Paul was formerly artistic director at Gresham School. They have previously worked together on no fewer than 18 productions, covering both musicals and opera.
We would like to invite anyone with memories and archive information about the North Norfolk Chamber Opera to contact us so that we can amend and update this history of the company.