About Us

What is Opera South?

Opera South performs operatic events throughout Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex. We are a charity and receive no external funding. We rely on our kind Friends and generous Patrons, Advertisers, Sponsors, Volunteers and our enthusiastic audiences coming to see us to achieve our aims.

The essence of Opera South is that we believe that live Opera is a joyful and uplifting experience, bringing together all the senses in a perfect marriage of great music, huge vocal talent, drama, tragedy, comedy, artistic staging, panache and ambience. However, it should also be available to a wider audience, of all ages, at accessible prices and in a wide range of interesting venues.

Our auditioned volunteer chorus is made up of talented local people from a whole range of different fields, including professionals, business people, students, housewives and the retired. All share a passion for delivering a high quality of song and performance to back up our talented young singers, who relish the rare opportunity at the start of their careers to appear on stage to a live paying audience, with the backing of a full chorus and a professional orchestra. Our fully-staged Operas are supported by a range of professionals, semi-professionals and volunteers to provide all the many threads that go into a great opera.

Opera South exists to:

  • Present fully staged operas, often those lesser known, in the South of England, particularly the three counties of Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire. High quality productions are performed in new English translations, subtly brought up to date, so that audiences may both understand and appreciate them fully.
  • Enable talented emerging professional and advanced student singers to gain invaluable performance experience at the start of their careers, in professionally staged opera, in particular less familiar operas of real artistic value. They are supported by professional orchestra, lighting, costume and set designers, and a well-trained chorus.
  • Increase access to high quality opera throughout the region and encourage community involvement in a vibrant and challenging activity, by presenting galas, masterclasses, lectures, workshops and concerts containing scenes and arias from opera and operetta, strengthening the involvement of the company with the wider society.
  • Introduce children to the pleasures and potential of opera and music theatre, by means of children’s matinées and workshops, with professional lighting, costume and set design and trained chorus to make the experience highly enjoyable.

Who are the people in Opera South

Board, Management and Regular Contributors

Local Solicitor, Anthony Ramsden has been the Chairman since 2005 and his fellow Trustees are Paul and Pat Ives. Paul and Anthony are also part of the volunteer chorus and Pat assists back-stage. Life Patrons Sarah and Michael Barnes, arrange the excellent annual Haslemere New Year and bi-annual Champs Hill Event. This team is assisted by regular volunteer committee members, Carolann Martys and Database Controller, Jerome Davidson.  A range of other very special people also roll up their sleeves for us whenever they can, for which we are extremely grateful.

We are always looking for more opera lovers or learners to help us in any way you can, so if you are interested in joining us contact Development@operasouth.co.uk

Opera South's Music Director

Mark Austin

Mark Austin is a rising British conductor with a talent and passion for communication with audiences. He has developed a reputation for brilliant musicianship complemented by accessible spoken introductions to the music. He is founder and artistic director of Faust Chamber Orchestra and music director of Opera South.

In 2016 Faust Chamber Orchestra celebrates its 5th anniversary and makes its debuts under Mark’s baton at Kings Place, LSO St Luke’s, and West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge. The orchestra is recognised for its virtuosic performances and distinctive approach to concert presentation. Recent successes include collaborations with soloists Guy Johnston and James Baillieu, and a 4-star review from the Times. Besides formal concerts, Mark leads a successful education programme at a wide range of schools and in collaboration with Chickenshed Theatre and Chiltern Music Academy.

Mark’s other work includes a diverse range of activities. He has worked as assistant conductor for Marin Alsop, Steuart Bedford, David Hill and the late Sir Colin Davis, with orchestras including BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBC Proms), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Hangzhou Philharmonic in China. Guest appearances include Orchestra of St John’s and Hertford Symphony Orchestra.

In opera, credits include Il barbiere di Siviglia (Musique Cordiale International Festival, France), Hansel and Gretel (Mercury Theatre, Colchester) and La Traviata for Opera South. He works regularly as an assistant conductor with The Bach Choir, for whom he accompanied a recent tour to China and conducted a BBC Radio broadcast.

As a collaborative pianist, Mark has appeared at venues including Kings Place, St John’s Smith Square, Leighton House (with Dame Felicity Lott), Holywell Music Room, Colston Hall, Champs Hill, Opera Bastille, Paris and the Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre. He regularly performs vocal recitals and has worked as repetiteur for companies including Glyndebourne Education, English Touring Opera, and Tête à Tête.

As an advocate for music education, Mark is a Patron of Chiltern Music Academy and works actively with the Academy to enable players of all abilities to come into contact with the musicians of Faust Chamber Orchestra. He regularly delivers lectures at Cadogan Hall for Opera Prelude.

Born in London, Mark had lessons in violin and piano from an early age. He played in the National Youth Orchestra, and went on to study at Cambridge University, where he obtained a BA in French and German with distinction and an MPhil in European Literature and Culture. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music, where he received numerous prizes and was appointed a Junior Fellow in 2012.