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-1990’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 use 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 Puccini’s Suor Angelica for us, performed in the Auden Theatre. This production 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 Self, as stage director, and this partnership culminated in Mozart’s splendid Marriage of Figaro in April 2019.
2020 saw us led by a new artistic pairing, the well-known duo of Mark Jones, Musical Director, and Paul Hands, Stage Director. Mark is well-known as Head of Chapel Music at Gresham’s, and Director of Music of Holt St Andrew’s and Holt Community choirs and Fakenham Choral Society. Paul was formerly Head of Drama at Gresham’s. They have worked together on no fewer than 18 productions, covering both musicals and opera.
Although we were unable to mount a production in 2020 due to Covid restrictions, we did manage to present a semi-staged version of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld in 2021.
Our 2022 production, also under their direction, is Claudio Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea.
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.