Camerata To Bow Out

Sep 12 2017 | By More

La Belle Helene to be final bow for Opera Camerata

Opera Camerata, the amateur light opera company founded in 1994 has announced that Offenbach’s La Belle Helene at the Church Hill Theatre in October will be its final production.

This will be the second time the company has taken on the work it first performed in 1998. It will play for four performances at the Church Hill: evenings Wednesday 11 to Friday 13 October, with a single matinee performance on Saturday 14.

Music direction will be by Alison Rushworth, as it has been for 26 of the 30 productions Opera Camerata has staged at the Church Hill Theatre over the last 23 years. Elspeth Williamson will be directing, as she has for 12 of those previous productions.

The company was originally founded in 1983 as Sinfonia Opera by Neil and Inga Mantle, under which name it staged works for 11 years before changing to Opera Camerata. Its stated aim was to put on productions of small-scale operas suitable for the Church Hill Theatre. Its first production was Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Alison Rushworth took over musical direction from Neil Mantle in 1988.

In a statement from the company, the chairman Elizabeth Thomson confirmed that 2017 would be its final year, saying that new chorus members are almost impossible to recruit and, with several exceptions, present personnel are reaching beyond retirement age.

Thomson adds: “As in previous years, this year’s principal cast members are of the highest calibre taken from Edinburgh’s fine pool of amateur operatic talent. Unfortunately, many of these promising singers choose to seek higher goals within their ambitions. In light of this, it is felt that the high standards we have enjoyed over the years simply cannot be maintained.”

parody of  the Greek myth

La Belle Helene (The Beautiful Helen) is parody of the Greek myth which tells of the elopement of Helen with Paris that set off the Trojan War.

Helen Queen of Sparta is married to the weak king Menelaus. She feels troubled by the Fates – a feeling fuelled by shady soothsayer Calchas, who has been charged by Venus with procuring Helen for Paris, prince of Troy.

Paris has won the right to the heart of the most beautiful woman in the world as a reward to allowing Venus to win a beauty competition between her, Juno and Minerva. And, according to Venus, Helen is that beauty. Not that Helen is completely averse to the notion…

So when Paris turns up at Helen’s, disguised as a Shepherd, the scene is set for Offenbach’s librettists Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy to create a whole boulevard farce, with word games, bed-swapping, dreams that turn out to be real, seaside abandonments and a sacrificial trip to appease the gods.

The production will boast a cast of 35 principals and chorus, accompanied by an orchestra of 18 players. Helen will be sung by Louise Thomson, with Paris by Nick Clelland.

Tickets, priced at £15, are available from the Usher Hall ticketing website or on the company’s phone booking line.


La Belle Helene
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Wednesday 11 – Saturday 14 October 2017.
EveningsWed – Fri: 7.30pm; Sat, Matinee only: 2.30pm.
Tickets from the Usher Hall ticketing site: or by phone from the company on 0131 228 2304.

Opera Camerata website:
Opera Camerata on facebook: OperaCamerata


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