Opera Circle

The Highgate Opera Circle is a very friendly group, so do come along and bring your friends. Even if you don’t know much about opera, now is the chance to try something new in a very convivial atmosphere.  Membership of the Opera Circle is free. There is a small admission fee to each evening event. Meetings are on Wednesdays, open to everyone, with curtain up at 7.30 and drinks available from 7.00.  

As part of the HLSI, which is an educational institution, The Highgate Opera Circle aims to promote the learning and encourage the appreciation of opera, perhaps the most emotionally intense and powerful art form of music theatre. Members, who range from those new to opera, opera enthusiasts, as well as to some full-time music professionals, meet to share in their interest and fondness for opera through a variety of planned events, all of which are open to non-HLSI members.

Evenings generally focus on profiling operas coming up in live cinema relays, by looking at the background to their composition and sometimes comparing different singers’ performances in alternative productions. We have also looked at the art of particular singers too, such as Mirella Freni and Tito Gobbi in their various roles.

We have also had guests discussing aspects of their career such as Robert Lloyd, Josephine Barstow and Felicity Palmer. Richard Suart has demonstrated his various roles in G&S and recently Philip Sheffield spoke about his career and the work of Jonathan Dove. Mark Elder and David Pountney have also been previous guests.

The Opera Circle has recently developed a partnership with Hampstead Garden Opera, who with their creative team and singers profile their forthcoming new productions twice a year in a joint evening at the HLSI.

In addition to these events, as well as the live cinema relays, there are visits to English Touring Opera, Garsington and Glyndebourne, as well as opera evenings in members’ homes.

If you like opera do come and join the circle of friendly opera enthusiasts.  We look forward to welcoming you at our events itemised below!

If you wish to keep up with all our activities please email us at operahlsi@gmail.com

OC Fees:

£60 for 2019/2020 season of 9 events or £10 per event, on the door.

Please contact the office for details: 020 8340 3343.


8 May

An evening on

Handel operas

An introduction to Handel’s operas, followed by Hampstead Garden Opera on their new production of his comic opera Partenope.

See Handel flyer

5 June

Boris Godunov

 An evening on Mussorgsky’s masterpiece, with Robert Lloyd introducing the opera and his St Petersburg performance. 

2 Oct

Peter Grimes

Britten’s most successful opera of immense theatrical power, portrayed in several versions including the Sadler’s Wells premiere of 1945.

6 Nov

La Boheme

An introduction to rehearsal and performance of Puccini’s masterpiece, followed by HGO with their singers and artistic team profiling their new production.

4 Dec

50 Years Of Opera

A pre-Christmas evening and social to end the year with an informal illustrated question and answer session with Robert Lloyd.

See Opera Circle Programme 2019

Highgate Opera Circle review 2018

The Opera Circle had a very successful year in 2018 with a total of 553 attendances, averaging almost 70 per night over the 8 evenings, a 20% increase over 2017.

We started the year in January with Bill English exploring many wonderful versions of Carmen. 

Painting by Henri Lucien Doucet
The first Carmen 1875

In February Michael and Jane de Swiet took us through the intrigues of Così fan tutte, and we were very pleased to welcome Tom McDonnell who described his performance as Don Alphonso in the famous 1989 production of Cosi on the Beach. 

In March Geoff Hunt introduced Verdi’s rarely performed Luisa Miller in a wonderful 1979 recording with Placido Domingo, Renata Scotto and Sherrill Milnes, which for many was a revelation and proved to be a very moving occasion.

In May Anne Casson took us through several wonderful versions of La Traviata, prior to Hampstead Garden Opera (HGO) joining us with some of their singers.

In June Geoff Hunt presented Lohengrin in a particularly poignant performance from Baden Baden in 2006, with Klaus Florian Vogt in the title role.  Several of us went on to see him singing the role to great acclaim at Covent Garden.

In the summer following an introduction to the opera at Yvonne Luby’s house, Jane de Swiet organised a very enjoyable Opera Circle trip to the lovely surroundings of Garsington to see Richard Strauss’s Capriccio.

Another group enjoyed a visit to Garsington to see The Magic Flute. We are very grateful to the HLSI members who obtained much sought-after tickets for both of these events and for performances at Glyndebourne.

In October Barry Mellor introduced us to Die Walkure. We were very pleased to welcome Penny Chalmers describing how with just 30 minutes notice, she took over the role of Brunnhilde in Act III at Covent Garden in 1996, singing with John Tomlinson as Wotan under conductor Bernard Haitink.

Brünnhilde   Illustration by Arthur Rackham 1910

In November, Bill English together with Esme Chandler and HGO introduced us to Cimarosa’s The Secret Marriage.  HGO had brought some wonderful singers and they went on to a very successful production at Jackson’s Lane. 

We ended the year in December on a very seasonal note with Geoff Hunt presenting six different productions of La Cenerentola to compare, with HGO’s Alastair McGeorge winning the bottle of wine for successfully recognising the greatest number of different singers performing the role of Cinderella!

Cinderella in the kitchen.  Illustration by Charles Robinson 1900

Jane de Swiet and the team organised some lovely Christmas food and we had a record attendance of 82.  A great end to the year.

The Opera Circle is a very friendly group, so do come along and bring your friends. Even if you don’t know much about opera, now is the chance to try something new in a very pleasant atmosphere.  Meetings are on Wednesdays, open to everyone, with curtain up at 7.30 and drinks available from 7.00.  

 Geoff Hunt

Opera, the most diverse, exciting and complex of art forms


Past events