In 2016 Alison Marshall and Justin Lavender realised their long held ambition to launch a new opera company. For several years they have worked successfully in partnership for other opera companies but felt the need to establish a company in their home county of Buckinghamshire.
Arcadian Opera currently perform one opera production a year, in the autumn. Company principals are usually drawn from the graduating students of the leading British conservatoires. The company chorus is made up of talented local singers while the orchestra is composed of professional musicians. To extend the remit of encouraging new audiences Arcadian Opera is fortunate to have help for the music staff of St Mary and St Giles School in Stony Stratford. Children from the school regularly join us for our staged productions as well as our Galas. In this way we hope to bring the joy of opera to a new generation of singers, while at the same time, bring opera to the opera loving audiences of Buckinghamshire.
Who we are
Our president: Sir Simon Keenlyside CBE
Simon is a British baritone who has had an active international career performing in operas and concerts since the mid-1980s.
He made his first appearance in a major operatic role in 1987 as Lescaut in Manon Lescaut at the Royal Northern College of Music. Opera magazine remarked on it being an “astonishingly mature” performance, and that he “used his warm and clear baritone with notable musicianship”. The Richard Tauber prize, which he won in 1986, allowed him to go to Salzburg for further study. His money ran out before he could finish his four-month term there, but Rudolf Knoll, a teacher at the Salzburg Mozarteum, gave him private lessons for free. Knoll encouraged him to work on the Italian repertoire while he was still young, and introduced him to the Hilbert agency which got him singing jobs in Germany. His professional debut as a baritone came in 1988, at the Hamburg State Opera as Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro.
Alison Marshall initially trained for five years at the prestigious Tring Park School for the Performing Arts after which she studied for a further three years at the Royal Academy of Dancing. She then became a professional ballet dancer in Germany, rising to be a solo dancer, appearing in many of the favourite classical roles as well as several roles that were created especially for her. While there, ballet roles permitting, she would occasionally sing in the chorus of the opera company resident in the same theatre.
Justin Lavender was originally persuaded by Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten to abandon nuclear engineering for music. His international debut was as Nadir in Les Pêcheurs de Perles at Sydney Opera House. This success led to engagements with opera companies and orchestras throughout the world at the very highest levels. In 1990 he made debuts at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, singing the leading role of Arnold in Rossini’s spectacular masterpiece, Guillaume Tell, as well as at the Wiener Staatsoper as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. His debut at La Scala, Milan, in the title role of Rossini’s Le Comte Ory came the following year, along with Demodokos in Dallapiccola’s Ulisse at the Salzburg Festival.