Words by and Music by Jacques Offenbach
The Guildhall,
March 1974
Director: Harold Dunford
Cast List

Notes on this performance

47. Orpheus in the Underworld                                                                                                                                                                   

A Golden Jubilee…

The choice of Orpheus in the Underworld as the show to celebrate 50 years of the Society was not well received by everybody – some were less than happy about suddenly having to pay royalties again, whilst others were incensed that a G&S group was celebrating a special occasion with a production of an Offenbach opera! The Echo’s headline even announced, ‘By Jupiter, they’ve dropped G and S.’

There may have been mutterings, but Harold Dunford and Jill Meager still found themselves with a company of 54 to organise - not to mention eight girls from the Southampton School of Ballet to perform the Can-Can and a dog named Benjamin.

However, poor attendances at rehearsals soon became a concern as it ‘hindered progress’. Members were reminded that there was a waiting list of people wanting to join but were being prevented by members who were not ‘pulling their weight’. Indeed, only one member of the company attended all of the available rehearsals. A production budget was created for this show (seemingly an innovation) and all departments were expected to ‘stay within its bounds’. VAT at 10% had also recently been introduced and the ticket prices had to be adjusted to help defray the extra costs.

The rehearsal pianist, Edwina Laird, had been informed that the Committee thought it was time for her to have an assistant to relieve her of some of her duties, to which she was aghast and informed them that she wanted to play more not less! It was still announced that she wanted to concentrate on principal auditions only. A much more satisfying decision was to keep Mike Baylis on as the Society’s photographer – an outcome that many committees and members have been thankful for over the years.

The Echo review did not dwell too much on the performances of the lead characters, instead it settled for a few comments and a list of their names, ‘Outstanding in the principal roles are Avril Lassam (Euridice), John Hoskins (Pluto) and Bernard Harman (Jupiter). Each character carries conviction and words are projected clearly, a most important point in a work of this kind. Also excellent are Michael Davies (Orpheus), Pamela Hoskins (Juno), Myra Chilvers (Calliope), Ralph Denby (Styx), Brian Lewis (Bacchus) and Dennis Gooch (Mars), while Alison Vear (Venus), Jillian Charnley (Cupid), Claire Girling (Diana), Peter Hill (Mercury) and Claude Lawrence (Icarus) more than adequately fill the minor roles.’

The critic did go into more details with the chorus, ‘This is a colourful opera and the chorus is large, so that some of the scenes are quite spectacular. The concerted numbers are all well sung, tone being commendably good, and only an occasional problem of ensemble presented itself.’ Benjamin seems to have been ignored.

Although ticket receipts were £450 more than the previous year, some items did not come in under budget (programmes made a loss of £57) and, with royalties of £220 having to be paid, Orpheus in the Underworld cost the Society £499.05.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Orpheus

 Myra Chilvers (Calliope), Michael Davies (Orpheus), Bernard Harman (Jupiter)

Photo of Jupiter

Bernard Harman (Jupiter), John Hoskins (Pluto), Pam Hoskins (Juno) 

Photo of Styx

Avril Lassam (Eurydice) with Ralph Denby (Styx)

 LB books dog

Coming to you in January 2022!