Dorset Opera Festival

Founded in 1974 in Sherborne, Dorset Opera moved to Bryanston and became a fully-fledged festival in 2011, with a remit to present at least two major opera productions each summer.

At the end of July each year, the Dorset Opera Festival gives three or four performances each of two fully-staged operas, usually in the original language, with full orchestra and internationally acclaimed soloists alongside emerging British artists and our summer school chorus. The performances are of exceptional quality, attracting the attention of national critics and opera-goers from across the UK and abroad, as well as entertaining local audiences.

…as for the young people taking part, many go on to develop successful careers in music, opera or the stage, and several have returned to take principal roles in later Dorset Opera Festival productions.

It has been a policy of the company to perform a cycle of well known and lesser-known works, always chosen with a view to providing plenty of challenges and excitement for the amateur chorus. Rare works include: the world stage première of Donizetti’s Gabriella di Vergy; what was thought to be the first UK stage performance of Puccini’s Edgar; Verdi’s Un Giorno di Regno; Offenbach’s La Périchole; Glinka’s Russlan and Ludmilla; the first UK stage production of Donizetti’s Maria Padilla; Ponchielli’s La Gioconda; Zeller’s Der Vogelhändler; Massenet’s Hérodiade; the European première (and world’s first recording) of Brazilian composer Gomes’ Salvator Rosa; the UK première of the Hungarian composer Erkel’s Hunyadi László; the British stage première of Puccini’s Turandot with the Berio completion; and the British stage première of Lord Berners’ Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement.

In 2018 we performed the British stage première of Massenet’s Le Cid to national, critical acclaim.


The Performers

Singers, costume makers, set builders, aspiring lighting and sound engineers, technicians, make-up artists, stage crew, administrative assistants and more all come together to work in a genuine co-operation to make an opera.

Whilst people of all ages are welcome, the concentration is on the 16 to 25 year olds, and for many of these young people, the Dorset Opera Festival provides their first encounter with the demands of putting on first-class opera. For those singing in the chorus, to learn the chorus part of at least two complete operas from memory, in a foreign language, in eleven short days, is no mean feat. Those who may have previously sung in choirs are usually stunned at first by the additional demands made of them in an opera chorus but, with the benefit of vocal and language coaching and working alongside other more experienced chorus members each day, they quickly gain confidence.

It is a tremendous thrill and privilege for these young people to sing and work alongside professionals. This ‘pro-am’ mixture works extremely well for Dorset Opera making it probably the world’s foremost residential opera summer school.