Essex Based Opera Group Brings Opera to Saffron Hall In Walden for the First Time


 Saffron Walden in Essex is set to become a venue for full concert performances of the world’s greatest operas.

The principal objective of the company is to produce high quality concert performances of operas in Saffron Hall using professional artists strongly supported by professional and semi-professional musicians and an invitation chorus drawn from choral societies from London to Cambridge.

Supported by Yellow Car Charitable Trust, Saffron Opera Group’s first venture will be a concert performance of Richard Wagner’s romantic comedy, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg on Sunday 14 September this year.

The idea for the company came initially from Professor Michael Thorne, the Vice-Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, who is a passionate Wagnerian. For each of the past twelve years, Michael has conducted a Wagner opera, including two complete four-opera cycles of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, in Portobello Town Hall in Edinburgh. There, rising young international singers hoping to make their names, are invited to sing the star roles together with local soloists and chorus. Following his first visit to Saffron Hall, he was so impressed that he vowed to perform Wagner in it but felt that, as a first class professional venue, it deserved a cast of singers already established in the major opera houses of Europe.

Through the indispensible auspices of international opera soprano Elaine McKrill, an impressive cast of no fewer than seventeen established and up-and-coming international opera stars has been engaged. They will be supported by a chorus of fifty invited singers under the direction of Saffron Walden Choral Society’s Musical Director, Janet Wheeler, and the St Albans Symphony Orchestra specially reinforced for the occasion by an additional twenty-two professional string players. Both Paul and Francis will be singing in the chorus and are now in training to hold the massive vocal score which weighs three pounds!

All involved have been amazed at the amount of support they have received from the world of opera whilst putting this performance together. For example, the opera will be sung in German and will need English surtitles. The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has provided these free of charge, together with the necessary computer hardware, and has also loaned the opera group a professional surtitle operator at a very modest cost. The Saffron Hall management have also been extremely helpful in setting up what will be a first for the hall and the Saffron Walden County High School most co-operative in making rooms available for rehearsal and for accommodating the performers who will be approximately 140 in number.

Saffron Opera Group’s remit is undoubtedly ambitious. It is confident that this first venture will be a success and that further operas will follow.

Tickets are available from Saffron Hall 0845 548 7650, online: or from the Saffron Walden Tourist Information Office.

The cast includes:

Sixtus Beckmesser – JULIAN TOVEY
Fritz Kothner – PAUL CAREY JONES
Walther von Stolzing – JONATHAN FINNEY
Magdalene – ANNA BURFORD
Night Watchman – STUART PENDRED




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