University College Opera

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University College Opera
UCL Bloomsbury Theatre.jpg
The Bloomsbury Theatre,
University College Opera's main performance venue
Abbreviation UCOpera
Formation 1951; 69 years ago (1951)
Type Student opera company
  • London, United Kingdom
Parent organization
University College London Union
Affiliations UCL Union Symphony Orchestra
UCL Union Symphony Chorus

University College Opera, or UCOpera, is the student opera company of University College London. The operas are staged by professional singers, directors and designers, with the orchestra and chorus drawn from the student body.[1] Founded in 1951, UCOpera is known for its productions of rarely performed operas, including 3 world premières, and 22 British premières. On 10 March 2008 UCOpera staged the UK premiere of Édouard Lalo's Fiesque, at the Bloomsbury Theatre.[2] 2009 saw another British première, Ernest Bloch's Macbeth.[3] UCOpera extended its list of British premières by staging Gounod's Polyeucte at Theatre Royal Stratford East in 2018,[4] and Smetana's Czech national opera, Libuše in 2019.[5]


The brainchild of the conductor Anthony Addison, (UCL's then Director of Music), University College Opera gave its first performance in 1951 with an all-student production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, followed by Mozart's Bastien und Bastienne. Even in its earliest years, the company's annual repertoire concentrated on rarely performed operas including: Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor (1952), Bizet's Don Procopio (1955) and Lortzing's Der Wildschütz (1958). In 1961, the company staged its first UK premiere, Moniuszko's Halka.

During its first 17 years, UCOpera's performances took place in the old gymnasium at University College. With the opening of the college's Bloomsbury Theatre in 1968, the company finally acquired a suitable venue for its productions. Under the directorship of George Badacsonyi who served from 1963 to 1976, UCOpera increasingly employed professional opera singers (often in the early stages of their careers) to sing the solo roles, with students making up the chorus and orchestra. Amongst the professional singers who have appeared with the company are Felicity Lott (who is now the patron of Friends of UCOpera), Robert Lloyd, Jonathan Summers, and Julian Gavin. The company's productions also became more ambitious with a series of UK and world premieres including: Wagner's Das Liebesverbot (1965); Haydn's Die Feuersbrunst (1966); Erkel's Bánk bán (1968); and Verdi's Alzira (1970).

A highlight for the company under the directorship of David Drummond (who served from 1992 to 2001) was UCOpera's world premiere staging of César Franck's Hulda in its complete form. The 1994 production used a score which Drummond restored from the composer's original manuscript.[6] Drummond's last performance as the company's Director coincided with its 50th anniversary, the 2001 UK premiere of Aulis Sallinen's Kullervo.[7]

Under the directorship of Charles Peebles UCOpera has produced British premieres of Hahn's Ciboulette, Dvorak's Vanda, Lalo's Fiesque, Gounod's Polyeucte and Smetana's Libuše. In 2012 UCOpera produced the first staging of Rameau's Acante et Céphise since the 18th century.

Productions 2001 to 2019

Year Production[8] Composer Conductor Director
2019 Libuše*[5] Smetana Charles Peebles Cecilia Stinton
2018 Polyeucte*[4] Gounod Charles Peebles Thomas Guthrie
2017 Aroldo[9] Verdi Charles Peebles Pia Furtado
2016 La favorite[10] Gaetano Donizetti Charles Peebles John Ramster
2015 Amadis de Gaule[11] Johann Christian Bach Charles Peebles Jack Furness
2014 The Snowmaiden Rimsky-Korsakov Charles Peebles Christopher Cowell
2013 I Lombardi Verdi Charles Peebles Jamie Hayes
2012 Acante et Céphise* Rameau Charles Peebles Christopher Cowell
2011 The Three Pintos (Die Drei Pintos) Weber/Mahler Charles Peebles John Ramster
2010 Genoveva Schumann Charles Peebles Emma Rivlin
2009 Macbeth* Bloch Charles Peebles John Ramster
2008 Fiesque* Lalo Charles Peebles Emma Rivlin
2007 Camacho's Wedding Mendelssohn Charles Peebles Duncan Macfarland
2006 Alfonso und Estrella Schubert Charles Peebles Stephen Barlow
2005 Whittington Offenbach Charles Peebles Jamie Hayes
2004 Vanda* Dvořák Charles Peebles Matthias Janser
2003 Ciboulette* Hahn Charles Peebles Daniele Guerra
2002 Benvenuto Cellini Berlioz Charles Peebles Jamie Hayes
2001 Kullervo* Sallinen David Drummond Paul Curran

(* denotes British premières)

Productions 1951 to 2000[8]

Year Production Composer
1951 Dido and Aeneas Purcell
1951 Bastien and Bastienne Mozart
1952 Merry Wives of Windsor Nicolai
1953 La Clemenza di Tito Mozart
1954 L'elisir d'amore Donizetti
1955 Don Procopio Bizet
1955 Bastien and Bastienne Mozart
1956 Il Turco in Italia Rossini
1957 The Devil and Kate Dvořák
1958 Der Wildschutz Lortzing
1959 The Barber of Baghdad Cornelius
1960 Beatrice and Benedict Berlioz
1961 Halka* Moniuszko
1962 Lodoïska Cherubini
1963 I due Foscari Verdi
1964 Sorochyntsi Fair Mussorgsky
1965 Das Liebesverbot* Wagner
1966 Die Feuersbrunst* Haydn
1967 Poliuto Donizetti
1967 Le cadi dupé Gluck
1967 Livietta e Tracollo Pergolesi
1967 The Tide Blacher
1968 Bánk Bán* Erkel
1969 Leonore** Beethoven
1970 Alzira* Verdi
1971 Armide Gluck
1972 Hans Heiling Marschner
1973 Stiffelio Verdi
1974 Clytemnestra Wishart
1975 Euryanthe Weber
1976 Macbeth (1st Version)* Verdi
1977 Saul and David* Nielsen
1978 The Maid of Orleans* Tchaikovsky
1979 Attila Verdi
1980 The Duenna* Prokofiev
1981 Hérodiade Massenet
1982 Oberto* Verdi
1983 Gwendoline* Chabrier
1984 Faust Spohr
1985 Le Villi Puccini
1985 Edgar Puccini
1986 Die Loreley* Bruch
1987 The Devil's Wall* Smetana
1988 Il Corsaro Verdi
1989 Giovanna d'Arco Verdi
1990 Un Giorno di Regno Verdi
1991 Lakmé Delibes
1992 Le Roi d'Ys Lalo
1993 Ruslan and Ludmila Glinka
1994 Hulda** Franck
1995 La Wally Catalani
1996 The Ballad of Baby Doe** Moore
1997 The King and the Marshal* Heise
1998 Mignon Thomas
1999 Mazeppa Tchaikovsky
2000 The Jewels of the Madonna Wolf-Ferrari

(* denotes British premières)

(** denotes world premières)


  1. ^ Maycock (24 March 1995)
  2. ^ Hall (12 March 2008)
  3. ^ Elleson (March 2009)
  4. ^ a b "Polyeucte, UC Opera, Theatre Royal, Stratford East, March 2018". 20 March 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b Anna Picard (19 March 2019). "Review: Libuse at the Bloomsbury Theatre, WC1". The Times. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  6. ^ Maycock (24 March 1994)
  7. ^ Kimberley (29 March 2001)
  8. ^ a b UCOpera. "UCOpera - Past Productions". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  9. ^ Picard, Anna (23 March 2017). "Opera: Aroldo at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, E15". Retrieved 4 April 2018 – via
  10. ^ Christiansen, Rupert (17 March 2016). "La Favorite - Another Donizetti rarity gets a welcome revival". Retrieved 4 April 2018 – via
  11. ^ Andrew Pink (October 2015). "UCOpera's production of Amadis de Gaule" (PDF). UCL Chamber Music Club Newsletter. No. 5. p. 9. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  • Christiansen, Rupert, "South Seas romp for desert island Dick" (review of Offenbach's Whittington), The Daily Telegraph, 26 March 2005. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  • Elleson, Ruth, "Bloch's Macbeth" (review), Opera Today, 30 March 2009.
  • Hall, George "Fiesque" (review), The Guardian, 12 March 2008. Retrieved 13 March 2008.
  • Kimberley, Nick, "Epic on a human scale" (review of Sallinen's Kullervo), The Independent, 29 March 2001. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  • Maycock, Robert, "Out of the top drawer" (review of Franck's Hulda), The Independent, 24 March 1994
  • Maycock, Robert, "Classical Music", The Independent, 24 March 1995
  • University College Opera, Company history (official website)

External links

  • University College Opera official website
  • The Bloomsbury Theatre, the main venue for UCOpera performances
  • UCOpera Photo Gallery
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