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Jewel Song

Salut demeure chaste et pure

Oui, c’est toi


Faust Paul Curievici
Mephistopheles Javier Borda
Marguerite Anna Gillingham
Valentine Christopher Cull
Siebel Katherine Aitken
Martha Heather Ireson
Wagner Thomas Hopkinson
Brander Dominick Felix

Conductor Clive Timms
Director Michael McCaffery
Assistant Music Director Robin Humphreys
Set & Costume Designer Elroy Ashmore
Lighting Designer David L Sadler
Fight Director Renny Krupinski

Violin 1 Susannah Simmons
Violin 2 Laura Concar
Cello Douglas Badger
Bass Richard Waldcock
Flute Jennifer George
Oboe Bethan Roberts
Clarinet Sarah Masters
Bassoon Linton Stephens
Horn 1 Matthew Crossley
Horn 2 Samuel Yates
Trumpet Matthew Palmer
Timpani/Percussion Andrea Vogler
Organ Robin Humphreys

Faust – Press Reviews

Bold, breathtaking, and … brilliant…visually spellbinding‘ Philip Radcliffe, Manchester Theatre Awards

Manchester Theatre Awards – Review by Philip Radcliffe ‘… the inventive Clonter take on this mighty work, led by Michael McCaffery and conductor Clive Timms, turns out to be bold, breathtaking and, in the end, brilliant. The staging absolutely captures the decadent pleasure-bent atmosphere of 1860’s Paris. Designer Elroy Ashmore’s set, imaginatively lit by David L Sadler, is a giant semi-circular hall of mirrors with a small Palace of Varieties theatre stage, red plush curtains and all …The theatricality works a treat. The truly climatic last two acts are visually spellbinding. The candle-lit church scene, with fairy lights in all those mirrors, of Act 4, stressing the importance in all this of the Catholic church, is unforgettable. Both acts are dramatically breathtaking…The singing overall is first-rate. In the central role of Marguerite, soprano Anna Gillingham is altogether captivating and sings gloriously… Mephistopheles, a boo-able figure in black and red, is reminiscent of MC in Cabaret, swaggering, would-be amusing, threatening. Javier Borda, a big man, fills the part splendidly…’

Manchester Evening News critic Robert Beale (commented on the above review).

‘Fully agreed. Music director Clive Timms and director Michael McCaffery have taken Faust back to its roots as an ‘opéra comique’, with spoken dialogue, and presenting it in English effectively captures its satirical aspect…With choruses turned into quartets, everyone worked hard, the ‘supporting’ roles such as Siebel (Katherine Aitken – a young Irish singer with a beautiful tone) and Martha (Heather Ireson – a star in Royal Northern College of Music opera and a gifted actress) as vital as the main protagonists, as were Thomas Hopkinson, another excellent performer from the RNCM, as Wagner and Dominick Felix as Brander. Paul Curievici (Faust) has the kind of tenor that would fill a much bigger house than Clonter’s and high notes that should take him a long way in the opera world. Javier Borda was excellent as Mephistopheles, with dark, lugubrious tone and a real gift for comedy.’

Full Faust Review

Clonter’s 40th Anniversary

Faust Audience Feedback

One of our donors
“We were thrilled to bits with last night’s performance of Faust. A wonderful new production …. all aspects delighted us. Congratulations to all concerned, performers, director and all associated. We so often feel productions are sometimes spoiled, even ruined – by an excess of resources, and the doing of things just because they can be done (not, of course, at Clonter!). We especially enjoy seeing and hearing opera at Clonter for this very reason. We look forward to bringing a couple of young people in September – who knows, we might convert them!”

Director of Brewin Dolphin
“Just a quick note to say what a great performance we were lucky enough to see on Saturday evening, it was a truly memorable performance, which not only did I enjoy enormously, but so did the guests we entertained”

Ex-head of performing arts at a local comprehensive school
“Tonight was absolutely fabulous in every aspect/direction/set/singers/orchestra…”

General Audience Feedback
“We really enjoyed the performance…as usual…our thanks to the cast and everyone involved in producing such a great evening”
“We were in a party of 10…All in all, a great tribute to all that has been achieved at Clonter during these past 40 years”
“I much enjoyed Faust; fine singing, stage settings and orchestra and very clever choreography, fitting it into a small stage”
“We didn’t know what to expect, and we got the unexpected…in true Clonter style! Comedy and tragedy went side by side. Moments of farce followed scenes of high passion and tragedy…a most devilishly flamboyant Mephistopheles manipulated his victims…the set made us think of a Parisian Music Hall of the 1890s, with plush banquettes and huge revolving mirrors; the costumes were a kaleidoscope of colour and style; the singing was superb (all in English), likewise the orchestra. Another Clonter night to remember.”

Younger Members of the Audience Feedback
“After watching last year’s performance of Die Fledermaus at Clonter Opera my brother and I (now aged 10 and 12) eagerly anticipated this years Faust by Charles Gounod. We were not to be disappointed! The plot totally captured our imagination and when the interval came we could not wait for the second half to begin. Only an ice cream could placate our wait!!The Opera was sung in English and there was plenty of dialogue in between, also in English. Understanding the storyline was definitely helped by the Opera’s sublime cast, dramatic scenery and a stirring orchestra.We were made very welcome and can highly recommend it to everyone and that is from two boys that are usually to be found on the rugby pitch!!”



Die Fledermaus


Eisenstein: Lawrence Thackeray, Dublin Conservatory of Music & Drama
Alfred/Blind: Gerard Schneider, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London
Frank: Mikhail Pavlov, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Rosalinde: Samantha Crawford, Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Ida (Rosalinde Cover):Alison Langer,
Prince Orlovsky: Catherine Backhouse, Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Frosch: Nick Dwyer, Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Adele: Alison Rose, Royal Academy of Music, London
Falke: Piran Legg, Guildhall School of Music & Drama

Director: Victoria Newlyn
Musical Director: Clive Timms
Designer: Elroy Ashmore-Short
Lighting Designer: Alexandra Stafford

Die Fledermaus – Press Reviews

“A lot of fun and exceptionally well sung by the young cast”

“Clonter specialises in being small scale and giving young singers priceless exposure”

“familiar Strauss tunes and well-known songs to enjoy…”

Philip Radcliffe, Manchester Theatre Awards


“I found the production refreshing…as it’s hard to think how this operetta could ever be moved away from 1870s Vienna – but the shift to summer of 1914 worked for me, retaining the atmosphere of facade and pretence but bringing it a little closer to the modern world…”

Robert Beale – Comment on Philip Radcliffe, Manchester Theatre Awards


“An imaginative, ingenious approach…the Viennese Secession Period”

“the Eisensteins as pretentious nouveaux-riches, the effete Russian Prince Orlovsky…part of a crumbling age of class distinctions and poseurs”.

“Performers caught the right level of zaniness to get laughs without absurdity, and musical values are high with Clive Timms conducting”

Robert Beale Manchester Evening News July 2013



Hansel and Gretal




WHO would have thought that Engelbert Humperdinck would write an opera? But of course the real Humperdinck (born 1854) could and did – in fact he’s known for Hansel And Gretel more than anything else. Forget the 1960s crooner.

It’s a perfect piece for Clonter Opera, the Cheshirefarm that grows some of the best young singers of today into the accomplished lyric artists of tomorrow, to present. All you need to cast is seven roles, and most of those are ideal for the youthful.

It was a notable success when Clonter last performed it, in 1998, and this time a delightful experience, too. Then they used a reduction of the lavish orchestral score to just piano, viola, cello, clarinet and horn, which worked amazingly well.

Now musical director Clive Timms had 16 instrumentalists in the unshielded pit (mostly Royal Northern College of Music trained), who played well but at times overwhelmed the voices.

Those included a Gretel –Raphaela Papadakis – and Hansel – Marta Fontanals-Simmons – who I think will go on to make a real impression. Both have rich, limpid tone through their range and both acted as if they were real youngsters.

Ben McAteer (Father), Magdalena Molendowska (Mother), Elizabeth Desbruslais (Sandman) and Elinor Rolfe Johson (Dew Fairy) – the last two doubling as enchanted children freed in the end – were all performers of imagination and singers of quality, andGuildhall-trained. The Witch, though, was Helen Anne Gregory, from the RNCM, who shone among them as a lurid, Coronation Street style harridan.

I think we all loved the style of Martin Lloyd-Evans’ production, which told the story as Roald Dahl might have. The thoroughly modern children are enticed by goodies such as ghetto-blaster and skateboard, and their dream is of happy family life in contrast to the deprivation of their real one.

Inspired set and costume design by Eleanor Wdowski and lighting by Alexandra Stafford brought the concept instantly alive, and – knowing just how small budgets for such things have to be these days – I would rate their part in this production as totally outstanding.

Robert Beale