Welwyn Opera

How did it all begin?

By Susi Smith

Madam Butterfly
Welwyn Opera Archive

The Welwyn Opera’s first production was in 1977 as part of the Music 77 event at Campus West. In 12 weeks flat, a production of The Marriage of Figaro was put together, with sets, costumes and lights, and it was this production which opened the festival on the evening on Monday 7th February 1977.     

The result was such an outstanding success, and it led the way to the first meeting of the Welwyn Opera, which took place in a cold and draughty St Francis’ Church Hall, in late February 1977.  

Music ’77 The First Night review – Sparkling and Sophisticated - Welwyn & Hatfield Advertiser

Welwyn Opera was formed, following a desire to sing opera in Welwyn Garden City. Until then the only operatic type group in the town were The Welwyn Thalians, and they had been very successful as an operatic society but were not able at that time to branch out into the world of opera production. So it was that a mix of people, led by Tony Skottowe, some of them Thalians, some interested opera singers from the area, set forth and decided to run a production of The Marriage of Figaro at the Music 77 festival, which turned out to be the start of a very successful run of productions.  

First Meeting 

The first meeting was held in the freezing cold, in St Francis’ church hall in February 1977. Following fantastic reviews by Eric Hill writing in the Welwyn and Hatfield Advertiser, who described the first night as sparkling and sophisticated, it was decided that the group could not fold after the success of the Marriage of Figaro, but should plan forward for many more opera performances in Welwyn Garden.

First Productions

The first production was a concert version of the Magic Flute, performed on Sunday 26th June at St Francis Church. This was then followed by a full scale opera production from 6th – 8th October 1977 at Campus West.

Peter Foster who worked on productions for the English National Opera, took the role as producer, Joyce Loyson became their music advisor, and Tony Skottowe designed and constructed the set.

This page was added on 16/11/2009.

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  • Regrettably the vital role of Musical Director, so ably performed by Adrian Weddell, has been missed out of this entry. Adrian died in 2018 as a result of an accident on his way to his boat in France. but worked with Welwyn Opera on an extensive range of classical opera and oratorios. Most notable in the list of major successes were the fully staged production of ‘La Boheme’, produced by Peter Foster, and the concert performance of the Bach B Minor Mass.

    Welwyn Opera continued until 2003 when it was forced to close due to a lack of funding as costs increased inexorably. Further information is available from The Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust.

    By Tony Skottowe (16/02/2019)