Finishing Touches for Rigoletto

  • Posted on: 5 May 2018
  • By: admin

Tomorrow is our last full rehearsal before dress and we are putting the finishing touches onto the production. Don't forget to book your ticket for the venue of your choice - they are selling out fast!

Rigoletto & Duke with Ceprano
Rigoletto & Duke with Ceprano
Set - table ready for play
Set - table ready for play
Rigoletto contemplates the curse
Rigoletto contemplates the curse
Sparafucile the contract killer
Sparafucile the contract killer
Sparafucile explains his work to Rigoletto
Sparafucile explains his work to Rigoletto
A sleeping Gilda
A sleeping Gilda is unaware she is about to be kidnapped
Some fiendish plotting
Some fiendish plotting
Marullo dupes Rigoletto
Marullo dupes Rigoletto
Ceprano's revenge
Ceprano's revenge is in sight
Rigoletto blindfolded
Rigoletto blindfolded
Gilda taken
Gilda taken
Giovanna has not been doing her duty!

Mike MacKenzie is Borsa

  • Posted on: 30 April 2018
  • By: Dorothy Withers
Mike MacKenzie
Mike comes from a musical background – dad ran one of the most popular dance bands in Scotland and his sister studied voice and violin at Warwick university- but it was not until he finished college in 1980 that he started to take a serious interest in singing. Since then however, he has not let the grass grow under his feet and has chalked up over 200 stage productions with various societies covering most if not all of the musical theatre genres. Mike’s first performance was in Kurt Weill’s “Down in the Valley” with Opera 3 in Cheltenham and thus “Opera” has remained a constant in his repertoire ever since. During the years he has sung an eclectic mix from the Savoy Operas of Gilbert & Sullivan, to musical comedy and main stream musicals such as by Andrew Lloyd Webber and along the way has even managed the odd play and tap dance routine too. His involvement is not restricted to just performing as he also directs, designs sound and lighting, stage manages, serves behind the bar and on occasion has been found sweeping the stage. Possibly best known locally for his appearances in musicals (he has been the recipient of 3 Sussex Best Performer awards) some of the groups he has worked with are The Wandering Minstrels, (many G & S principal roles) Southwick Opera, (Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus) Oxted Operatic (Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof) and of course with us here at Heber Opera. Being in such demand we are delighted that Mike is back with us for his 5th outing with Heber. In 2011 he appeared as the jailor in “Fidelio”and a couple of years ago took the demanding tenor role of Nadir in Bizet’s “Pearl Fishers”. Mike says he first fell in love with Verdi’s masterpiece when singing the role of Marullo so is looking forward to portraying another character, Borsa, the libidinous Duke’s right hand man in our forthcoming production of “Rigoletto”. When not singing Mike has his head in the “cloud” working for an international IT company. His two lovely daughters having now flown the nest he lives with his dance teacher partner Karen, and their large but loveable retriever in Turners Hill. Along with Rigoletto (Nick Forrest) Mike also enjoys sampling a post rehearsal brew at one of the local hostelries. Purely medicinal of course!

Richard Bacon is Monterone

  • Posted on: 30 March 2018
  • By: Dorothy Withers


Richard has enjoyed singing operatic roles for the past 30 years or so and has appeared in a wide variety of shows with around 20 amateur companies in areas such as South London, Surrey, Kent, Berkshire and of course here in Sussex. He has sung in 6 productions with Heber Opera, most recently in Dvorak’s “Rusalka” when he gave a very moving portrayal as the Water Gnome.

We are delighted to have Richard ( or Dick as we know him) back with us for our forthcoming production of Verdi’s Rigoletto when he will perform the role of Monterone, a respectable and honourable gentleman whose young daughter has been badly treated and abandoned by Duke. Denouncing Duke as a lewd scoundrel and seeking justice for his daughter Monterone is mocked and treated with great disrespect by both Duke and Rigoletto and consequently delivers a curse on the two men. Duke shrugs it off but the curse deeply affects Rigoletto and becomes the over-riding theme of the events that follow.

Rehearsals underway for Rigoletto

  • Posted on: 15 March 2018
  • By: Dorothy Withers

Rehearsals are well under way for our May production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. Having had around six weeks of familiarising ourselves with the music we have now taken “to the floor” and started to move the action.

This is always a tricky time initially, as instead of sitting in our separate voice sections with the music in hand and Michael our musical director standing right in front of us to give us our leads we now have to think about positioning, using the floor space, reacting to the drama that is unfolding and trying not to trip anyone up.

Gradually the actual scores will be put down as musical memory muscles kick in, and hopefully attention can then be really focussed on projecting the story by gesture, expression and movement.

It has only been a couple of weeks so we are still in the early stages of production but already characterisations are starting to form. We begin to differentiate the “goodies” from the “baddies” and understand the nuances of the plot a bit more.

Here are a few photos from the second week of floor rehearsal which have been taken by Ruth Harper, the daughter of Jo, one of Heber’s regular performers. Ruth is currently studying for her GCSEs and is hoping to go on to study media and film at college.

Derrick Nunn (as Marullo a member of the Duke's inner circle)

Jo Harper (proud mum of photographer Ruth)

Nick and Tim
Nick Forrest (Rigoletto) with Tim Crouch (Duke)

Dave and Dick
(L) Dave Carverhill (Count Ceprano) being confronted by (R) Dick Bacon (Monterone)

Jenny Duvall (One of our newest members -Jenny has to convey the desperation of Monterone's daughter at the start of the opera)

Phil and Jan
Phillip Manning and Jan Barger (acting a chorus conversation)

Tim and Liffy
Tim Crouch & Liffy Carverhill (Duke's wandering eye alights on Count Ceprano's wife)

Nick and Andy
Nick Forrest and Andy Holden (The contract killer Sparafucile approaches Rigoletto and offers his services)

Nick Forrest is Rigoletto

  • Posted on: 7 March 2018
  • By: Dorothy Withers


Nick Forrest has been a mainstay of Heber Opera since its very first production. That was Benjamin Britten’s “Rape of Lucretia” in which Nick took the challenging role of Tarquinius, the Spartan prince who was infamously credited with the act that named the opera ! The music was not particularly easy and I remember we had a visiting singer for that show, who, during rehearsal for a particularly tricky ensemble was heard to say- in less than encouraging tones- “Well, if we are going to get this wrong then let us at least sing it quickly and get it over with as soon as possible” Ah, there have been some memorable quotes over the years!!

Since then of course Nick has become very well known to Heber supporters who appreciate the depth of vocal and dramatic characterisation he brings to every role. Whether tackling the lighter parts which include comic elements, such as Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus by Strauss ) or delving into deeply tormented souls such as Bluebeard ( Bluebeard’s Castle by Bartok ) or Verdi’s “Macbeth”, he always brings the same level of commitment, never holding back but putting 100% of his energy into bringing characters to life.

Most recently he gave a very moving performance as Valentine, the honourable brother of doomed heroine Margarita, in last year’s production of Gounod’s Faust and is currently busy preparing for the challenge of getting under the skin of the title character in Verdi’s Rigoletto.

Recently retired from teaching ( Drama & Singing ) Nick is now a full-time singer and when not wearing his “operatic hat” continues to entertain audiences with his band, the ever popular and much in demand “Wilbury Jam”.

Away from music, Nick is a passionate follower of rugby union and cricket and in connection with the latter is currently having a wonderful time reading Henry Blofeld’s very entertaining autobiography “Over and Out”. Also known to enjoy sampling the odd glass of “real ale” Nick may be found after rehearsal frequenting the odd local hostelry with some of his like minded fellow “Heberites”. Singers do need to keep their throats lubricated of course!!

Veronica Brookes is Gilda

  • Posted on: 21 February 2018
  • By: Dorothy Withers


Veronica’s love of singing began as a child and indeed her first professional engagement was at the tender age of 10 performing in a variety show that ran for the summer season. She started having singing lessons around that time and these eventually led her to the world of opera where we find her today.

I can remember Veronica from our early days with Brighton’s “ Wandering Minstrels” (sadly no longer in existence) when we sang together in various shows, predominantly Gilbert & Sullivan Savoy Operas and it is a particular joy to me to have followed her progress and the development of her voice over the years to the beautiful operatic soprano instrument that we hear today.

Veronica considers herself lucky to have been able to sing some fabulous leading soprano roles in opera such as the title roles in “Tosca” and “Lucia di Lammermoor”, Fiordiligi in “ Cosi fan Tutte” and Leonora in “Fidelio”. Last year she was stupendous as Margarita in our production of “Faust” and now in our May production of “Rigoletto” she will take the role of Gilda which includes one of the most famous of all soprano arias “ Caro Nome”. Veronica tells me this will be her 7th leading role in a Verdi opera!

Married to Andrew and with two lovely children Veronica currently lives in Hove. The world of opera however is never far from her thoughts as when she is not actually performing, her professional life is based at no less a place than Glyndebourne where she is Head of Human Resources. Surely that must be a dream job for someone with her love of music and singing!!

A Very Welcome Return!

  • Posted on: 12 February 2018
  • By: Dorothy Withers

Heber Opera is delighted to welcome back Michele Restieux after a few years break.


She has been in much demand in the interim singing with Kentish, Stowe, and Southwick Operas and notably took the role of The Croupier in “Imago” at Glyndbourne. Most recently she appeared with Lewes Operatic Musical Theatre as Jack’s Mother in their production of “Into the Woods”.

Regular Heber supporters will of course remember Michele from productions such as Aida and her impressive performance as Amneris, the jealous rival for the affections of Radames. Then there was Eugene Onegin when she appeared as Olga, she was Moor of Moor Hall in the early English opera “ Dragon of Wantley” and appeared in another Verdi opera “ Masked Ball “ when she took the role of Ulrica.

Back to Verdi again with our forthcoming production of “Rigoletto” Michele will be wearing two hats as it were, because we have taken a slight break from tradition and combined the roles of Giovanna and Maddalena. As we worked through the plot when initially deciding how we would stage the opera, there appeared to be no reason why the characters should not be the same person, just doing two jobs under different names. Ie Rigoletto’s housekeeper in Act 1 ( Giovanna) and the lady of dubious morals (Maddalena) who attracts the Dukes attention in Act 2. It certainly adds another dimension to the story!

When she’s not actually performing Michele puts her vocal experience to good use practicing as an Holistic Therapist and she provides a unique treatment combining vocal technique and homeopathy. This year will also see the launch of her new summer school - Mirror Mirror Drama – to be run in collaboration with script writer Allie Packer. The workshop aims to provide 12 to 16 year olds with an outlet for their creative inspiration and includes sessions on scriptwriting, music, drama and production work.

This talented lady also tells me that she has British Standard Gold in Epee fencing and hinted that she is waiting for a role where she can make use of it !!. Now let me think………

Rigoletto Box Office - Now Open!

  • Posted on: 4 February 2018
  • By: admin

The box office for our May production of Rigoletto is now open! This year's production promises to be one of our most exciting and challenging performances ever. The music is exquisite and we are anticipating a great deal of interest.  There will only be 5 performances this year and we expect the tickets to sell rapidly so to avoid disappointment please book your tickets early!

Sat 19 May King Edward hall, Lindfield  7:30pm 
Sun 20 May Uckfield Civic Centre  6:00pm 
Fri 25 May St George's Church, Kemptown, Brighton  7:30pm 
Sat 26th May Steyning Centre  7:30pm 
Sun 27th May Hurstpierpoint Village Centre  6:00pm 

Tickets are available now:


Work begins on Rigoletto

  • Posted on: 20 January 2018
  • By: Dorothy Withers

Well, Christmas is done and dusted and we have seen in the New Year so its time to not only get figures but also tonsils back in shape as we start to get to grips with the music of Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, our production planned for May this year.

Last Sunday was our first music rehearsal and with a good turn-out of chorus members, Michael Withers, our musical director kicked off with a few vocal exercises to warm us up before opening the score and guiding us through a couple of the chorus numbers.

Tim Nail, our stalwart repetiteur navigated his way skilfully around an awful lot of notes which was all the more impressive as he had only been given the final version of the score that evening.

On the subject of scores, most of those readily available to purchase have very dated language so we decided (as for our previous couple of shows), to do our own re-translation in order to make the words more relevant to our time and hopefully this will all add to the finished production in due course.

We have a great line-up of principals:

Rigoletto Nicholas Forrest 
Duke Tim Crouch 
Sparafucile Andrew Holden 
Monterone Dick Bacon
Count Ceprano David Carverhill
Borsa Mike MacKenzie
Marullo Derrick Nunn
Gilda Veronica Brooks
Giovanna/Maddelena Michele Restieux
Countess Ceprano Liffey Carverhill

All of the above mentioned  have sung with Heber on many previous occasions and in fact most were involved as principals in “Faust” last year.

However, we are delighted to welcome back Michele after a few years break along with Dick Bacon and Derrick Nunn is bravely stepping out of the chorus to use his reliable bass/baritone voice in the role of Marullo.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with “Rigoletto” it contains some of the best known music in the Verdi repertoire providing the backdrop to a story of seedy glamour, seduction, a father’s love, revenge and ultimately tragedy. One thing is sure, as our regular supporters know, Heber does things differently so if you haven’t seen us before do come along and give us a try !!

We shall keep you up to date with progress and of course remind you when tickets go on sale! ( That’s 1st February if you didn’t already know!!! )

Christmas Greetings to all our Supporters!

  • Posted on: 19 December 2017
  • By: Dorothy Withers

To all our loyal supporters and followers………………

It’s that time of year again when we look back at what has been achieved over the past 12 months or so and let you know our plans for the coming year.


When we set out in 2016 to present Pearl Fishers, we were not sure what the future might hold for Heber Opera but, due to the success of that production and thanks to the enthusiasm of our regular principals and chorus we moved ahead this year with plans for FAUST. Audiences were slightly down on the previous year but those who came were bowled over by our production and we received really good feedback on the standard of vocal and dramatic performance so everyone involved please take a well-deserved bow.

As well as FAUST in May, we presented two Tea Concerts in November, have recently given a pre-dinner Christmas entertainment at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion ( having been asked back again after last year) and are currently in the middle of our regular carol singing engagement for The Bluebell Railway.

The management team continue to meet regularly and discuss the usual things such as publicity, fundraising and of course recruitment. It is fair to say that most of us in the company are heading for (or have already hit) retirement so looking ahead we really could do with some new blood to ensure Heber Opera has a viable future. We have been delighted to welcome a few newcomers recently, Cynthia Davies, Jenny Duvall, Bridget Stevenson, Francesco Purpura, Daria Robertson and Christopher Williams, and hopefully they have enjoyed the experience so far. Personally, I think we are a very welcoming company and the least “stuffy” group of people I know so hopefully we will attract a few more additions to our ranks in the coming months.

A brief word here about funding – everything we put on whether it be a concert or full production is self funded. We get no grants whatsoever and whilst we pare costs down to the bone as much as we can, putting together a production runs into several thousands of pounds. Each member of the cast pays an individual show “fee” to take part, plus a small weekly subscription which helps cover the costs of rehearsals. Throughout the year our treasurer (the indefatigable Jenny Letton) organises Craft Fayres and Tea Concerts and Jon Gardner ensures profitable raffles at each and every performance. These are all valuable sources of fund raising so if you have supported any Heber events throughout the year you will have helped keep us “in the black”. Thank you Jenny and Jon plus everyone who helped with fund raising events over the past year.

As you may have seen from the website we are looking ahead to 2018 with plans to present Verdi’s RIGOLETTO. This will be an exciting production and although usually very much geared to being a male dominated show, we will be including our ladies in all the chorus work. Our principals are all signed up and raring to go and most of them have already started preparations for the first rehearsal in January. Once again we are delighted to have the creative input of Pitch Black Lighting . Mark and Natalie’s team has a huge impact on how a show looks and we are really looking forward to working with them on Rigoletto. Watch this space for regular updates on how things are going once rehearsals get underway.

So..all that’s left is to say a big thank you for continuing to support us and we look forward to seeing you all at Rigoletto in May 2018.

With sincere good wishes for Christmas and the New Year from all at “Heber Opera”.