Hampstead Garden Opera

HGO brings live opera, fully staged with orchestra, at reasonable prices to the people of north London and offers performance opportunity and training to young singers.  We have been recognised by critics as one of the finest of small opera companies.  We have won, and on other occasions been nominated for, the Offie for best opera production – an award for the best production outside the West End.

We stage our operas twice a year, May and November, in the excellent theatre at the Jacksons Lane centre in Archway Road, a vibrant performance venue.  On this website you can see reviews of past productions, learn of upcoming operas and concerts, buy tickets – and even sign up as a Friend of HGO.

However wonderful may be the performances of stars in the great opera houses, there is a special value in the experience of opera in the intimacy of a small theatre, the sense of being personally absorbed into the performance.  And at an HGO performance, you might be enjoying the brilliant early sparkle of a great star of the future.  And that sparkle will be set within the glow of our orchestra, not the piano accompaniment of most small companies.  Come once and you will come again.  See photos of previous productions. 

Though we are heavily dependent on ticket income, and though we do stage some well-known favourites, we pride ourselves on our variety of exciting works from all ages – from Monteverdi to Jonathan Dove.

Save for some minor roles, all our operas are double cast with five performances for each cast.  All roles are won by audition.  Those reading from that perspective should note that principals with small roles will normally be expected to join the chorus on their performing nights.  As a training company that charges no fee to singers, we do look for some help in the promoting of ticket sales.

To any reading this who have been successful in life and have become wealthy, and have an inclination to support the arts, we can offer the opportunity to sponsor an opera and thereby give a helping hand to young talent. Please respond directly to the chairman, rnsainsbury88@gmail. com

HGO is the performing arm of Hampstead Garden Opera Trust Ltd, registered charity no. 1168484.

We are fortunate to have as our president, Penny Mackay.  The directors of the company, also its charity trustees, are:

Roger Sainsbury – Chairman
Alastair Macgeorge – Chairman Emeritus
Martin Musgrave – Deputy Chairman
Patricia Cabredo Hofherr
Linda Hirst
João Rufino
Oliver John Ruthven

Secretary: Gilly Wesley

Roger Sainsbury - Chairman

Roger read engineering at Oxford and made his career in construction and related industries. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a past president of the Institution of Civil Engineers.  Since retirement he has been active in many different fields of charitable work.  He has served as chairman of Hampstead Heath DFAS, as secretary to the Abbeyfield North London Society, as Stewardship Recorder and Gift Aid officer for St Michael’s Church, Highgate.  He was project manager for major construction works at these latter two bodies.  Roger is a member of the Ecclesiological Society and recently published St Michael’s Highgate – A History.  He is not a practising musician but enjoys classical music of all kinds.  For the past five years he has been Secretary to the Friends of Hampstead Garden Opera.

Alastair Macgeorge - Chairman Emeritus

Alastair Macgeorge - Chairman

Alastair Macgeorge worked for 40 years in the consumer movement – 28 years with Which? and, post-‘retirement’, supporting fledgling groups all over Eastern Europe and Central Asia from 1991 to 2003. These post-Soviet travels yielded a musical bonus in the shape of some truly memorable performances of rare operas in unlikely places. An early starter on the piano but never a great practiser, he infuriated his father, a gifted accompanist, by ‘strumming’ (i.e. playing what came into his four-year-old head). This led to a lifetime of music-making in many contexts – in domestic chamber music, accompanying singers and instrumentalists, and in composition – notably the score for Murder in the Cathedral in St. Michael’s, Highgate, in 1991, and a few songs, choral pieces and other small-scale works. He joined HGO on day one as its rehearsal pianist, and has been deeply involved with its development ever since, latterly as Chairman.

Penelope Mackay, AGSM, HonARAM - President

Penelope Mackay was born in Yorkshire and trained at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London.   Having spent most of her professional career in opera (Glyndebourne, English National Opera, Covent Garden, Opera North, Flanders, Liège, Graz, New Opera Company, English Opera Group and English Music Theatre), she began her teaching career in 1988, combining it with performances at Covent Garden (Cunning Little Vixen) and Her Majesty’s Theatre (Phantom of the Opera).

Penny was responsible for coaching in French Song at the Royal Academy of Music and French diction and phonetics both there and at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.  She was also a professor of singing in both institutions with a wide brief, teaching undergraduates on the classical and the jazz courses at GSMD, and postgraduates in both institutions on the opera courses, music theatre and early music courses.

Penny was granted her Primary EVTS Licence by Jo Estill in May 2002. She has recently been involved with the Britten Pears Young Artists programmes at Snape Maltings, coaching on the opera, oratorio and French song courses.

Oliver-John Ruthven - Principal Music Director

Oliver-John Ruthven began his musical career as a chorister at Westminster Abbey, and went on from there to Tonbridge School and the University of Manchester.

He has been Music Director of HGO since 2008, conducting a huge variety of repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to Jonathan Dove via Handel, Mozart and Donizetti. Oliver-John is currently assistant conductor to John Eliot Gardiner for the Monteverdi Choir’s tours to the USA and Europe of Monteverdi’s ‘L’Orfeo’ and the Vespers of 1610.

He recently made his Royal Opera House debut with Bizet’s Carmen in a distilled version for the Deloitte: Ignite Festival 2015. In the first half of 2015, he was assistant music director for Glyndebourne Youth Opera’s production of Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas.

He is in much demand as a continuo player, working as harpsichordist for the English Baroque Soloists under Gardiner, and as a founder member of Musica Poetica London. He has also played with the London Mozart Players, His Majesty’s Sackbuts & Cornets and the Little Baroque Company.

As a choral conductor and accompanist, Oliver-John has worked with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, the Halle Youth Choir, the Classical Roadshow, the Brighton Early Music Festival, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s education department.

He is a lay clerk at Southwark Cathedral and a very occasional member of the Monteverdi Choir’s tenor section.

Jonathon Heyward - Associate Conductor

Jonathon won the highly prestigious Besançon International Competition for Young Conductors 2015.
Jonathon Heyward enjoys a versatile career as an operatic and orchestral conductor. After
competing in the 2013 Blue Danube Opera Conducting Competition, Heyward became the
youngest semi-finalist in the competition’s history; cited as a “fresh new talent, with
exceptional musicianship.” Heyward is currently enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music
and studies with Sian Edwards.

While attending The Boston Conservatory of Music, Jonathon began his operatic
studies with Andrew Altenbach. From 2012-2014, Heyward served as an Assistant
Conductor for the conservatory’s opera department. During his time there, he worked on
various productions including La Boheme, Zauberflote and Rape of Lucretia. In 2013, he
became the Music Director for the children’s opera, Mooch the Messy, which toured to
several schools and museums in the Boston area. Heyward continues to be a frequent
guest and cover conductor for various ensembles in the greater New York, Boston, and
London area.