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Fiona Woolf DBE

Duncan Orr

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Last Updated: 27/9/18



Autumn 2018

Bellini’s Norma
7pm, Saturday 27 October 2018, Cadogan Hall

Our 2018/19 season opens on Saturday 27 October 2018 with a performance of Bellini’s masterpiece Norma. The opera is regarded as one of the pinnacles of bel canto and requires a very special soprano to portray the eponymous Druidess. We are absolutely delighted that Helena Dix will return to perform the role after her stunning Abigaille in Nabucco last year. Norma is famous for its duets, especially those between Norma and her friend (at least to begin with…) Adalgisa. This role is now often given to a mezzo-soprano but was written for a high soprano, so Helena will be joined by Welsh soprano Elin Pritchard. The Roman proconsul Pollione will be sung by Christopher Turner and Norma’s father Oroveso by Joshua Bloom. The performance will be conducted by Dane Lam, who is principal conductor of the Xi’an Symphony Orchestra and a regular at Opera Holland Park where he has conducted Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni, Aida, Il barbiere di Siviglia, and most importantly, Norma. Please help us to publicise this concert. Chelsea Opera Group relies on income from the box office for its survival. Please consider how you can help either by buying tickets yourself, recommending Norma to friends and colleagues or posting details of the concert on social media. Doors open at 5pm. There will be a pre-performance talk at 5.45 by Ditlev Rindom in the Cadogan Hall which is free to ticket holders.

New Chorus Master

We are delighted to welcome Lindsay Bramley as our new chorus master. Lindsey worked with the chorus on last season’s Mosè in Egitto which was so successful that we immediately invited her to become our permanent chorus master. She began working as a conductor in 2011 with La traviata for Park Opera and since then has conducted Madama Butterfly, Carmen, Die 'Zauberflöte, Semele and Un ballo in maschera. She also works as a translator and subtitle writer.

Massenet’s Thaïs

Our performance of Thaïs was greeted with a standing ovation from the audience at the Cadogan Hall in June. This was due in no small part to the portrayal of the title role by Paula Sides. It was especially remarkable because she had stepped in to the role with only five days’ notice. We were all in awe of her musicianship as we witnessed her progress from sightreading on Monday to a fully-fledged performance on Saturday. She was supported by our conductor Stephen Higgins who made a memorable debut with the group and the other members of the cast including Michel de Souza as Athanaël and Nico Darmanin as Nicias. Opera magazine’s Yehuda Shapiro was enthralled: “Having skittered around Cadogan Hall’s balcony as she appeared in Athanaël’s vision, she announced Thaïs’s physical arrival with a flowing opening phrase of just the right wistful allure. It helped that Side’s voice has a distinctive, concentrated tang and is arresting resonant in its lower reaches, though she could also cap ‘Dis-moi que je suis belle’ – both coquettish and vulnerable – and a searingly intense final scene with fearless high Ds. Zealously and tirelessly propelling her on her trajectory from courtesan to saint was the Athanaël of Michel de Souza, his tone vibrant and smoky, his phrases long-breathed, his French consistently natural-sounding. Nico Darmanin radiated libidinous vocal energy as Nicias, and the brightly seductive Crobyle of Susanna Fairbairn was paired with the sultry Myrtale of Angharad Lyddon, later transformed into a serene Albine. In her turn as La Charmeuse Nicola Said spun enticingly juicy coloratura. Matthew Hargreaves brought authority and dignity to Palemon and Ashley Mercer made a formidable impression as Nicias’s servant. During the pivotal Méditation, Diana Cummings’ full bodied violin line soared and swooned and the chorus floated. Stephen Higgins conducted, encompassing the fleshliness and the austerity of Massenet’s score, and ensuring that its pacing after Thaïs’s moral awakening remained artful, building to de Souza’s ringing cry of despair in its closing moments.”

Future Plans

On March 24 2019, we will be back at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, recently reopened after its lengthy refurbishment. Matthew Scott Rogers will conduct a performance of Boito’s Mefistofele. We last played this opera in 1990 and don’t think it has been heard in London this century, so we thought it was time to revisit it. Another devilish opera follows on June 30 – Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon which we will perform in Russian conducted by Oliver Zeffman. The cast will be headed by Andrei Kymachin the title role and Anush Hovhannisyan will make a welcome return as Tamara.

Join us!

If you have ever wondered how it feels to sing in an opera, why not consider joining our chorus?    Rehearsals are held in central London, normally over the five weeks before a performance, usually two evenings a week and one all-day weekend session. If you would like to know more contact us by emailing

Membership of the orchestra is by invitation, but we are always on the look-out for high quality players – especially double basses!!  If you are interested in finding out more or know someone who might be interested in playing with COG please let us know.

The best way to contact us is by emailing

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Duncan Orr

Supported by the Chelsea Opera Group Trust: Registered Charity Number 247438.
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