Happy New Year!

  • Posted on: 1 January 2020
  • By: Dorothy Withers

Well it’s that time of year again when we look back on what Heber Opera has achieved over the past 12 months.

Norma production (Grace, Matt and Veronica)

Our production of Bellini’s “Norma” in May was an artistic triumph with outstanding performances from all our principal singers. Despite the complexities of a difficult vocal score and the antiquated setting everyone rose to the challenge. Veronica Brooks excelled both vocally and dramatically in the title role and our two new members (Matt Connelly and Grace Lovelass) fitted in so well with the Heber way of doing things that one would think they had been with us for years. Bethan Jackson, Steve Hawksley and Nick Forrest completed the principal line-up bringing their experience to provide real depth of characterisation to their roles. Sadly audience numbers were slightly down but we had nothing but praise from those people who did come and hopefully the word went round about the high quality of the performances.

Norma production: Sacred Goddess (Casta Diva), Veronica and chorus

Later in the year we presented a concert as part of the Hurstpierpoint Festival and as well as all our soloists from “Norma” we were delighted to be joined by Dick Bacon, Tim Crouch, Mike Mackenzie and Sally Wilson. Daria Roberton and Jennie Duval from our ladies chorus were also featured in a couple of the ensemble numbers. After a lot of thought we had decided that rather than just a stand and sing event we would include costumes and movement to enhance the dramatic content. The programme was made up of solo, duet and ensemble numbers from a variety of operas including Pagliacci, L’elisir d’amore, Madam Butterfly, Sampson & Delilah and Tosca concluding with scenes from Norma. It was hard work as everyone had to be off book but it had real impact and showed off the depth of talent we have in all our soloists.

Hurst Festival – Nabucco trio (Tim, Bethan and Sally)

Hurst Festival: Madama Butterfly (Matt and Veronica)

Hurst Festival: Scene from ‘Norma’ (chorus)

This month we have been privileged to perform three times at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion. It is an honour to have been asked back for the third year in a row but always a joy to be able to sing in the music room, a truly beautiful setting enhanced even more this year by an exhibition of porcelain pagodas on loan from Buckingham Palace. We have to arrive very early for security reasons and it was by no means straightforward getting to the Pavilion this year due to all the road works in Brighton so we would like to thank all our singers who braved not only the awful weather, but also the traffic in order to get there.

Carol concert at Brighton Royal Pavilion

Finally we had our usual stint of Christmas carol singing on Sheffield Park station for The Bluebell Railway. Nine sessions this year and there were some hairy driving conditions to get there each night as due to the heavy rainfall many of the roads were increasingly subject to flooding. On the final Thursday there was a landslip outside Horsted Keynes which affected the dinner train’s schedule and it arrived half an hour early. Fortunately 5 of us were there to kick off the singing until the rest of our team came and joined us.

Carol singing at the Bluebell Railway (1 of 2)

Carol singing at the Bluebell Railway (2 of 2)

It is a really joyful thing to do at this time of year especially if the diners from the train come and join in. We see one or two familiar faces who have been on the Christmas train for a number of years and they greet us like old friends. As for the carollers our numbers are swelled on some nights by ex Wandering Minstrel members, ex Heber singers and often wives, husbands and children make an appearance too so overall it’s a lovely social gathering. Again, sincere thanks to everyone who braved the weather this year to come and sing with us.

Looking ahead, we start rehearsals for “Martha” on 5 th January. This is a different sort of production from recent years as it is much jollier and nobody dies!! We will post more information in the New Year, about the singers and the plot and when the box office is available so do watch this space.

Finally, as well as thanking everyone involved whether singing, behind the scenes or loyal supporters we also send you our very best wishes for the Christmas season and may we all look forward to a happy, peaceful and successful New Year.

See you in 2020!