The history of opera and operetta in Haslemere goes back to the Haslemere Players who had been performing exclusively Gilbert & Sullivan since the early 1900’s. When they moved on to do “musicals”, a small private opera company emerged in 1974 set up by three talented couples.
Our current Chairman, Anthony Ramsden saw the first production of the new company and was later persuaded to join the chorus of Don Giovanni in 1976, at a young age and, as he says himself, rather reluctantly for his first time on stage! Some three years later, he twisted his father, Geoffrey’s arm, into the same fate, much to his mother’s alarm! The company sadly ran into the ground in 1984.
Many of those involved in the previous opera company met in Haslemere in May 1984 and, in a short, but decisive, one hour meeting decided to set up an operatic charity, Opera Omnibus, with the intention of performing in and around south-west Surrey. Ian & Margaret Tribe, Anthony and Geoffrey Ramsden were elected to the first committee.
Over the next few decades the charity put on an impressive range of annual and even twice annual operas and a range of other events including a highly acclaimed production of Abu Hassan at the Edinburgh Fringe. In 2005 the name was changed to Opera South to better reflect its location, offering operas and opera related events in and around Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire.
Since 1984 there have been four Chairmen, Ian Tribe, Geoffrey Ramsden, John Braithwaite and currently Anthony Ramsden. There have been a dozen more excellent Musical Directors plus four Presidents, Betty Whitbread, (from the brewing family) Adele Lee, Phillip Langridge and Anne Murray. (Opera South is currently seeking a suitable candidate for the role of President).
We very much appreciate that this is skimming over many great people who have been involved over the years in all aspects of the company and our apologies are extended to those whose names are not recognised here. We are especially grateful to Guy Davenport whose superb photography has helped made this website lookso stylish.
Over the coming year we intend to prepare a more detailed history of Opera South and Opera Omnibus on the website and possibly, time, funding and sponsorship allowing, a beautiful coffee table book will follow. If there is anyone who has more to tell us or has any more great pictures or who would like to be involved in the production of these documents, we warmly welcome your input.
Please contact Anthony Ramsden on Development@operasouth.co.uk
Opera South’s staged Opera Performances
In the 1980’s
1984 The Impressario (Mozart) AND Orpheus in the Underworld (Act 2) (Offenbach)
1985 The Pearl Fishers (Bizet) AND The Mikado (Gilbert & Sullivan)
1986 Carmen – in concert (Bizet) AND Martha (Flotow)
1987 Luisa Miller (Verdi)
1988 The Sorcerer (Gilbert & Sullivan) AND La Sonnambula (Bellini)
1989 Lakmé (Délibes)
In the 1990’s
1990 The Gypsy Baron (Johann Strauss II)
1991 Der Freischütz (Weber)
1992 Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky)
1993 L’elisir d’amore (Donizetti)
1994 Count Ory (Rossini)
1995 Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti) AND The Merry Widow (Lehár)
1996 Zampa (Hérold)
1997 Don Quixote (Massenet)
1998 Die drei Pintos (Weber & Mahler) AND Don Pasquale (Syon House) (Donizetti)
1999 La Cenerentola (Rossini) AND Linda di Chamounix (Donizetti)
In the Noughties
2000 Abu Hassan (as Andrew McCann) (Edinburgh Festival Fringe) (Weber) AND A Masked Ball (Verdi)
2001 The Haunted Manor (Strazny Dwór) (Moniuszko)
2002 Verbum Nobile (Moniuszko) AND L’amico Fritz (Mascagni)
2003 Beatrice di Tenda (Bellini)
2004 Si j’étais roi (Adam)
2005 Faust (Gounod)
2006 Djamileh (Bizet) AND The Merry Wives of Windsor (Nicolai)
2007 The Elixir of Love (Donizetti)
2008 The Bohemian Girl (Balfe)
2009 Martha (Flotow)
From 2010 to present
2010 La Périchole (Offenbach)
2011 Peter the Great or Tsar and Carpenter (Zar und Zimmermann) (Lortzing)
2012 Merrie England (German)
2013 Count Ory (Rossini)
2014 La Traviata (Verdi)
There are full prorgramme details including all who took part of each of the operas and these will be available on the website in PDF format later in the year.