Production company formed with vision of hosting some of the world’s greatest operas at Saffron Hall

Paul Garland and Francis Lambert from the newly-formed Saffron Opera Group.

Paul Garland and Francis Lambert from the newly-formed Saffron Opera Group. - Credit: Archant

Saffron Walden’s multi-million pound auditorium is to become home to some of the world’s greatest operas following the launch of an ambitious new venture.

Inspired by the flowering of musical activity in the area since the opening of Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden residents Paul Garland and Francis Lambert have formed a music performance company called Saffron Opera Group.

The principal objective of the company is to produce high quality concert performances of operas in Saffron Hall using professional artists supported by professional and semi-professional musicians and an invitation chorus drawn from choral societies from London to Cambridge.

Supported by Yellow Car Charitable Trust, Saffron Opera Group’s first venture will be a concert performance of Richard Wagner’s romantic comedy, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, on Sunday, September 14 this year.

Mr Lambert said: “The idea for the company came from Professor Michael Thorne, the vice-chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University. He is a passionate Wagnerian who has conducted Wagner operas, performed by rising young international singers, annually in Edinburgh for the past 12 years.”

“He approached us following his first visit to Saffron Hall with which he was so impressed that he vowed to perform Wagner in it.

“However, he felt that, as a first class professional venue, it deserved a cast of singers already established in the major opera houses of Europe.”

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With the help of international opera soprano Elaine McKrill, an impressive cast of 17 established and up-and-coming international opera stars has now been engaged.

They will be supported by a chorus of 50 invited singers under the direction of Saffron Walden Choral Society’s musical director, Janet Wheeler, and the St Albans Symphony orchestra, specially reinforced for the occasion by an additional 22 professional string players.

Mr Lambert, who along with Mr Garland will be singing in the chorus, added: “Saffron Opera Group’s remit is undoubtedly ambitious. We regard it as a challenge but trust that the experience we gain from putting on Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg will lead to further operas in the future.”

The opera will be sung in German with subtitles provided free of charge by the Royal Opera House.

Tickets are available from Saffron Hall 0845 548 7650, online at or from the Saffron Walden Tourist Information Office.