Peterborough Opera Company was formed in 1969 by music teacher Clive Fairbairn, who was the first Musical Director. Singers were recruited for a production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Costumes were made by Olga Hutchinson, who also sang a small role, and other members of the Company. The Producer was David Smart, an English teacher, and the production was staged at the Peterborough Technical College (now the Regional College).
From this first production the Company went on to greater things, still attracting our own producers, set designers and costume makers working for just expenses. The next few years productions were taken around to Corby, Stamford, Huntingdon and Oakham: this was a major feat in itself and soon became too difficult to organize. In 1974 we were invited to move to the Key Theatre in Peterborough, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni was our first production there. Mention should be made here that the early productions were always in June or July: in 1976 they were moved to the autumn, as the members battled with too many nights with high temperatures in the Key Theatre!
The company has staged most of the standard opera repertoire but also many productions of lesser known works by Vaughan Williams, Britten and Cimarosa. Over 30 operas have been in the repertoire of the company.
For Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades the Company had a visit from the then Royal Patron, HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, and for Vaughan Williams’ Hugh the Drover they were honored with a visit by Ursula Vaughan Williams, wife of the late composer.
From 1973 until 2008 the Company was guided and inspired by Musical Director John Walmsley. Until the appointment of Marc Murray as Music Director in January 2011, the company was led by Fraser Goulding. After Marc Murray left the company in 2015 we are now directed by Kate Wishart. Owing to rising costs at the Key Theatre, starting with the second production of L’Elisir d’Amore in 2010, our main productions have been staged at the Corn Exchange Theatre in Stamford.
In addition to the main production the Company also rehearses regularly.