Newport Operatic Society - The First One Hundred Years by David Kenny

This fascinating book relates the story of Newport Operatic Society’s first one hundred years. Written by a former Society member, David Kenny, the book delves into archives to extract tales and titbits from the history of what was one of the best amateur operatic societies ever to grace a stage.

Founded in 1920, and blessed with huge talent - indeed, many members went on to professional operatic careers with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company - the society played to packed houses twice a year at both the professional Empire and Lyceum Theatres in Newport, S Wales. Queues of over a thousand people were a frequent sight outside the box office when tickets went on sale.

Born in the Land of Song, the Society was never afraid to tackle some of the greatest operettas, as well as more obscure examples. Originally established to stage the incomparable works of Gilbert & Sullivan, they quickly branched out into the likes of Showboat, Die Fledermaus and the Desert Song, which the Society was the first amateur company in Wales to attempt it. It was produced by Harry Winton who brought his experience of its first UK production at Drury Lane in 1927. Modern musicals joined the repertoire as well – Sunset Boulevard, Chess and Oliver!

The Society was also blessed with enormous production and backstage talent, such as the incomparable producer Maisie Griffiths, who had danced with Anna Pavlova’s Corps de Ballet, after auditioning for the greatest Russian ballerina of her generation herself. Maisie brought unbounded talents to the company, with a huge ability to ‘see a picture’. And she is only one of many such characters.

War stopped the Society for a while but it soon bounced back, as popular as ever with audiences from far and wide. It’s still going strong in 2021, as it celebrates its centenary.