EUROPEAN CHAMBER OPERA: A BRIEF HISTORY
THE EUROPEAN CHAMBER OPERA Was founded by Artistic Director Stefan Sanchez in 1992 after a chance conversation with Spanish Agent Gonzalo Augusto in a restaurant in El Escorial, final resting place of the Kings and Queens of Spain and sumptuous setting for Verdi’s musically brilliant but historically wildly inaccurate Don Carlo.
The conversation resulted, not in Verdi, but Mozart (Bastien und Bastienne) and Pergolesi (La Serva Padrone) hastily put together via telephone at the Palace Hotel Madrid and presented to the Teatro es Borne Ciutadella Menorca a few months later.
The Verdi came the following year with a stunning and, for such a fledgling company, madly daring production of Il Trovatore given at the Banqueting Hall, Whitehall, to celebrate the life of Superstar Freddie Mercury; directed and sweated over by Christopher Newell. Montserrat Caballe was up the road singing Viaggio a Rheims at the ROH, she had a day off, came to see us and agreed to become our Patron! Emboldened by this our stage-struck kindly sponsor Peter Freestone asks us to record the opera for ASV to hit the shops for Christmas!
Sometime later while Stefan is singing the title role of Eugene Onegin for Oxford University Club directed by Rosie Johnston a friendship is formed and he asks Rosie to direct Magic Flute and Marriage of Figaro for ECHO. These two productions soon find themselves entertaining audiences at Government House Hong Kong and Holland Park respectively….
During Echo’s time at Holland Park we present Cenerentola: Carmen: Don Giovanni: Lucia Di Lammermoor: Don Pasquale and Magic Flute. These productions culminate in Stefan being asked by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to become the first ever Artistic Director of Holland Park Opera. His first opera there as Artistic Director was Verdi’s Ballo in Maschera directed by the legendary Anthony Besch and designed by Peter Rice. Whilst there Stefan formulated a five year production plan. Holland Park has gone on to become one of the most exciting Summer Opera Festivals in the United Kingdom.
ECHO’s refreshing and innovative productions are in great demand throughout the UK and within a few years we are giving in the region of 150 performances of around five operas each year up and down the country. One year, forever etched in the mind of Tamsin Stanley, our fantastic PR, was in July when we were in three places at the same time. A split week at Poole Arts performing Tosca and a new translation of Barber of Seville (set in a 1910 Health Farm in Brighton), an outside performance of Tosca at Sommerly and another performance of Barber in the Stately Home of Lord (X)…we had to use the rehearsal props for his Lordship!
After a hectic Summer/ Autumn season we start again with a Christmas extravaganzas of “Stepping out With Strauss” and “ A Policeman’s Lot is Not A Happy One” devised and directed by young genius choreographer and Artistic Director of NONSUCH history and dance; Darren Royston. A little further from home ECHO’s repeated visits to Hong Kong result in them being invited to Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand Malaysia, Japan, Sir Lanka, Dubai, Egypt, Bahrain, Sharjah, Jordan and Abu Dhabi. We have had the pleasure and honour to present opera just about all over the world. In fact..During a recent tour to the USA with grand scale production of Merry Widow (26 US States in Three Months) performed by ECHO but organised by Columbia Artists we found ourselves welcoming Wealthy Pontevedrian Widow, Hanna Glawari back to the Motherland at Westpoint, Virginia USA while another section of the company was taking advantage of Old Miser-Bachelor Don Pasquale at the Hotel Gran D’Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia.Nowadays Stefan and ECHO tend to only perform in one country at a time!
Some of our Non-Theatre Venues The Natural History Museum (in front of the dinosaur, on the grand staircase), Kensington Palace, Brighton Pavilion, Blenheim Palace, The Great Conservatory Syon House, The Royal Geographic Society, Royal Automobile Club, The Ritz Hotel London, The Liberal Club London, Elton John’s House, The Stables at Chatsworth, Sommerly House, Hotel Gran D’Angkor Siam Reap, Le Coq D’Or Hotel Morocco, Palacio Gaviria Madrid, The Egyptian Room (British Museum), British Embassy Paris, Tykoo House Hong Kong, The Holy Ramadam Tent Qanat Al Qasba Sharjah, Nad Al Sheba Club Dubai, Sheraton Grande Sukhamvit Bangkok, Sheraton Laguna Phuket, Sheraton Pattaya, Hilton Hotel Hua Hin, Sheratons Sapporo, Kobe, Tokyo Bay Japan, Grand Millennium Dubai and many more!
Each year we add more exciting venues to our list taking opera around the Globe! IN 2011 Stefan became Head of Productions for Opera Siam, formerly Bangkok Opera. He directed Savitri by Gustave Holst (Thai Cultural Centre Small Hall), Tosca (Thai Cultural Centre Main Hall) Bluebeard’s Castle (National Theatre) and MAE NAAK (Chalernkrung Theatre).
Stefan’s tenure at Opera Siam culminated in his promoting the company for a UK Tour. This was the first ever Thai Opera Company to perform outside its native country.
IN 2000 Stefan was honoured by his college and created Associate of the Royal Academy of Music. During his summer holidays he directed a new production of La Traviata in Spain for The Soloists of London. 2015 Tours are planned to United Kingdom, Spain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Bangalore, South Korea, Thailand.