How it all started
Sheffield City Opera was founded in July 1999 when South Yorkshire Opera folded. Chorus member and businessman David Melton wrote to every SYO member and invited them to continue SYO’s mission of staging quality operatic performances, in a new company run by volunteers. Over sixty people attended the first meeting and a steering committee was formed, with David as Chairman.
Catherine Davison is the only member left from that time and is now Chairman. She recalls “There was a real excitement at the first meeting. Many of us had been singing together for over twenty years and we didn’t want it to end”.
The company’s first task was to take over the concert that SYO had already planned at the Crucible in October. David wrote to every patron and they responded magnificently. One gentleman, Gordon Adam, even gave us £1000. We invited Andrew Nicklin to direct and arranged to rehearse at our usual venue, having a whip-round to pay for the room.
Graham Morris, Chief Executive of the Crucible, was hugely supportive. We went to see him when we had no money and not even a name and asked if we could still have the October slot. He agreed!
We wrote to the Musicians’ Union and promised to pay every orchestra member in cash before the performance. The concert was a great success, despite being performed on the set of A View from the Bridge — of course there was a massive bridge on stage that we had to work around and it helped that our Chairman was also a civil engineer!
Our next show, the first we’d produced from scratch, was a Valentine concert at the Crucible. We invited Andrew Marples to conduct with Mark Langley as director and compère.
Catherine says “This remains one of my favourite performances. Everyone involved put on a wonderful show and the sell out audience loved it. A highlight was a lovely duet between two talented 15-year-olds. This is what we wanted for SCO. I was lucky enough to be playing principal roles at the Crucible in my twenties and I was determined that other young people should be given the same chance”.
SCO has continued to provide a platform for young singers, many of whom have gone on to have glittering careers (see our Alumni here).
We staged our first full length opera, Donizetti’s Elixir of Love, at the Crucible in July 2001. From then we have gone from strength to strength, performing fifteen operas as well as several concerts at many venues all over South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire.
It has not all been good news. Sadly, many of our members have died. Tricia Warr, Geoff Holland, John Lackenby, David Dobbs, George Benson, Judy Daily, Sue Anderson, Peter Dixon, Sheila Wilkinson and Joan Howarth all played their part in SCO and we remember them with great affection.
In recent times, membership has declined and money has been tight but we have continued to stage operas and concerts of excellent quality.
Our most recent venture “Donna and her Mobile” was a new departure in that we wrote it ourselves, setting new words and a modern story to well-known arias and choruses. As for the future, we are looking forward to staging a new opera, Women of Steel at Kelham Island Museum as part of Classical Sheffield.
Sheffield City Opera is still the only amateur society performing grand opera in Sheffield. It is fulfilling its original aim of providing a platform for young singers as well as welcoming those of any age. Some of us have grown old in its service! Whether you have lots of experience or none and would like to try something new, you would be made very welcome. Please get in touch!
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org