Our history

Heritage Opera – History.


Heritage Opera began in Leyland,Lancashire in 2006, when conductor Chris Gill arranged a short tour of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte, which visited several Lancastrian venues. The tour went well, and he arranged and conducted at least three opera tours a year until 2011.

His wife, soprano Serenna Wagner, is still a company member but Gill decided to concentrate more on his teaching career and he handed over the reins to Sarah Helsby Hughes and Nick Sales who have been running the company ever since.

Chris remains as emeritus musical director and he is also the chairman of the charity that runs the company. Gill was also far-sighted enough to realise that producing operas in small stately homes, while a pleasant occupation that brought pleasure to many, would not put the name of Heritage Opera on the musical map. He had the audacious idea of commissioning a new opera, conceived for just their type of country house performance, and he approached arguably the foremost opera composer in the UK today, Jonathan Dove, to write it for him. The world première of Dove’s Mansfield Park, based on the Jane Austen novel, was given at Boughton House, the home of the Duke of Buccleugh, in Summer 2011. It toured Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire, and eventually appeared at the trendy London opera festival, Grimeborn, to rave reviews from the national press.

Chris Gill’s ambition to make Heritage Opera an artistic force to be reckoned with has paid off, and Heritage Opera is now regularly invited to play at top stately homes, large theatres, festivals and for corporate and private entertainment.

One of the reasons for Heritage Opera’s continued success lies in its uncompromising musical standards. Only professional singers are used, and wherever possible, performers with a northern link are given preference.

Recent developments include touring to various new venues in Scotland and Southern England, a repeat booking with the Northumberland Music Festival, a Young Artists Programme, intimate “A Passion For…” concert tours, and young musical dynamo Benjamin Cox becoming their regular accompanist.

Sarah Helsby Hughes – Artistic Director.
Sarah hails from Liverpool, and studied at Birmingham Conservatoire of Music. She has directed over 20 productions for Heritage Opera, and also performs regularly as a soprano soloist in opera and concerts.

Nicholas Sales – Company Manager
Nick comes from North Staffordshire, and sings regularly as a tenor soloist all over the world. He has produced all the Heritage Opera shows since 2011. He also translates for Heritage Opera productions.

Chris Gill – Chairman and Musical Director
Chris studied music at Birmingham University, and started Heritage Opera in 2006 with his wife mezzo soprano Serenna Wagner. He has conducted extensively around England. Chris is currently head of music at a prep school in Oxford.

If you would like to support Heritage Opera in realising the vision of taking affordable opera to places that other opera companies neglect, please visit our ‘Friends and Patrons’ page for more information on how you can be a part of this exciting company.

4 Responses

  1. Katie Slowgrove
    Katie Slowgrove July 23, 2018 at 7:22 am · Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed your performance at Bayham Abbey on Saturday. Wonderful music, acting, singing and very entertaining in a stunning setting on a beautiful Summer’s evening! Thank you!

  2. Moira Wilson
    Moira Wilson September 23, 2018 at 8:00 pm · Reply

    Absolutely loved Madame Butterfly in Boston. How fortunate we were to have a visit from such a talented group of musicians. Can’t wait for the return visit next year.

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