Opéra de Baugé was founded in 2002 as a French not-for-profit entity and mounted its first festival in the summer of 2003, performing one opera, Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten. Three performances were attended by an audience of about 400 in total.
In the first year the key members of the orchestra were principals from leading UK opera houses who were nearing the end of their careers and wanted to pass on their knowledge to younger players. Early in our development the younger players came from the Britten Piers orchestra. As we have acquired our own reputation and momentum we have been able to build a core of regular players.
Early on our soloists were young singers setting out on their careers as new graduates of music schools. We are now able to attract more experienced singers to fill the main roles. We recruit new graduates and final year students into our chorus which is a nursery for future soloists. For example, in our production of L’Elisir d’amore in 2013 all of the soloists had made their operatic debuts, some in the chorus, at Opéra de Baugé. We are however always on the look-out for undiscovered singers of great talent, and in 2014 Karlene Moreno Hayworth, a young soprano from the Philippines made her opera debut as Cio-Cio San in our Madama Butterfly. She returned in 2015 to make her debut as Despina in Cosi fan tutte, and will perform for us again in 2016 in Albert Herring.
Many now well-known singers and musicians made their operatic debuts with us. Examples include Ben Johnson, Sophie Bevan, Gareth Malone, Nadine Livingstone, Jimin Park.
The first nine festivals took place in the park of Les Capucins, the property of the founders of the opera. From 2012 to 2015, the festival was presented in the Centre Culturel René d’Anjou, Baugé. In 2016 the festival will return to Les Capucins.
The format of each evening – i.e. curtain up at 6pm, an interval of 90 minutes for picnics or dining in our restaurant set up for the season, has remained unchanged from the first season onward, though we now start weekday performances in July at 7pm to permit people who are at work to get to the opera.
Since its inaugural season Opéra de Baugé has presented operas every year in late-July and early-August. The season has grown to twelve performances and three operas, as well as two concerts. The total audience has grown to over 3,000 each year, and is expected to continue to grow.