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”.

May 2018 - Rigoletto

  • Posted on: 2 December 2017
  • By: Dorothy Withers

Heber Opera is pleased to announce that our 2018 production will be Verdi’s Rigoletto containing some of opera’s best known arias for tenor, soprano and baritone.

The story is one of a father’s possessive love, a daughter’s innocent love and a man’s selfish love all of which culminate in an act of revenge that goes horribly wrong.

Along the way to the heartbreaking climax there are lighter moments and we cover everything from sex, lies, kidnapping and a vengeful curse to a murderous revenge that backfires because of the machinations of a dastardly brother and sister.

Regular supporters of Heber Opera will know that we aim to present opera in a dramatic and approachable way and we hope that Rigoletto will be no exception.

We look forward to seeing you next May.

Tickets are available now:


A Perfect Afternoon for Lovers of Opera (and Cake!)

  • Posted on: 15 November 2017
  • By: admin

This Saturday, 18th November sees the first performance of our Opera with Afternoon Tea concert at Adastra Hall in Hassocks at 3:00pm. We have a fabulous program of operatic arias and chorus numbers including works by Verdi, Puccini, Purcell, Bizet not to mention Gilbert and Sullivan. Sandwiched in the middle of this operatic feast will be a sumptuous afternoon tea prepared and served to you by the cast. The cakes will be sublime, the sandwiches exquisite and this year, the sausage rolls will be obligatory!

If you can't make it again on Saturday, we are doing it all again on Sunday 26th November at the Village Centre in Hurstpierpoint

Last year's event was a complete sell-out and because it is a catered event it's not straightforward to squeeze people in at the last minute so please be sure to book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

Autumn Season - First Rehearsal

  • Posted on: 2 September 2017
  • By: admin

After a well earned rest following our May 2017 production of Gounod's Faust, Heber Opera begin rehearsals for the Autumn Season on September 10. We have a really exciting program lined up for the rest of 2017 with our High Tea concerts in November, a Christmas concert in the music room at the Brighton Pavilion and carol singing at the Bluebell Railway.

If you are interested in performing opera, it is a great time to get involved as we begin to learn the music for the new program. In the autumn season we are focussed on performing in the concert medium rather than a theatrical production so you can join the group and get used to us without the pressure of a preparing for the stage. Our May 2018 production will be Verdi's Rigoletto which is really exciting!

Rehearsals take place in Hurstpierpoint on Sunday evenings.

If you would like to come along on September 10, please contact our Musical Director Michael Withers on 07802 735190 or email:

For more information please click here.

This November - Opera with High Tea

  • Posted on: 2 September 2017
  • By: admin

After the success of last year's High Tea concert, Heber Opera will once again be combining sublime music with delicious cakes for a fabulous afternoon of entertainment. This time we are expanding the program to include two dates in November at Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint.

The afternoon program consists of a delicious sandwich of two halves of fabulous opera separated by afternoon tea prepared and served by the Heber team. Last year's tickets sold like hot cakes so be sure to book early by following choosing the Next Production option from the menu or click here. If you prefer to phone, please call 01435 866737.