Nominated in the RISING TALENT category at the 2022 International Opera Awards, John Savournin has created productions both as Artistic Director of Charles Court Opera, and as a freelance director, devisor, and writer, working primarily in Opera and Musical Theatre.
Opera engagements include his main stage debut for Opera North with Trial by Jury, as part of the company’s season of Little Greats, the Spring 2022 Opera Highlights Tour for Scottish Opera, a staging of Benjamin Britten’s Songs and Proverbs of William Blake for English Touring Opera (lost to the pandemic), The Pirates of Penzance for a co-production between Opera Holland Park and CCO, Express G&S and Iolanthe for Charles Court Opera. He won the ‘Offie’ award for Best Opera Production for his production of H.M.S. Pinafore for Charles Court Opera in 2019.
During Autumn 2020, he directed three films: Grief, a new short opera by Amanda Holden and Nils Holger-Peterson for Opera Harmony, available on Opera Vision; Whistle-stop Opera – Cinderella for Opera North; and CCO’s online pantomime, Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown.
He has written, devised and directed numerous education and outreach projects for companies such as Opera North, the Royal Opera House, Opera Holland Park and the Concordia Foundation, of which he is the Education Manager. He has directed Opera North’s series of Whistle Stop Operas to date, including The Mini Magic Flute, which was commissioned for the CBBC Summer Social, and What is Opera? which aired on the BBC’s Opera Passion series. He has written several opera adaptations for the Royal Opera’s Opera Dots series and directed an adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance for Opera Holland Park’s ‘Inspire’ programme.
As the Education Manager for the Concordia Foundation, he has written and directed original musical works for performances linked to and involving schools in London, including their most recent project The Man in the Moon – there’s no Planet B? which focussed on climate change and recycling.
John Savournin founded Charles Court Opera in 2005. His productions for the company have included Iolanthe, The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, Ruddigore, Buttons: A Cinderella Pantomime, King Tut – An Egypt Panto, and both The Magic Flute and The Barber of Seville for co-productions with Iford Arts. He has written/directed CCO’s fourteen pantomimes to date, often also appearing as the Dame or Villain, and directed an evening entitled Avant-Garde including Schoenberg’s Pierre Lunaire, Peter Maxwell-Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King and a series of Beckett shorts. Most recently, he has directed Express G & S – A Murderous, Musical, Mystery Tour and Beowulf – An Epic Panto.
Elsewhere, John has directed a rare revival of Sondheim and Rogers’ musical Do I Hear a Waltz? at the newly opened Park Theatre in London; Tosca and Il Barbiere di Siviglia for the Musique Cordiale Festival in the South of France; Handel’s Giulio Cesare for Trinity College of Music at the Blackheath Halls; Acis and Galatea; Cosi fan tutte; The Impresario; Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart and Salieri and Wolf Ferrari’s Susanna’s Secret.
Recent engagements have included a return to OHP to direct HMS. Pinafore, a new production of Iolanthe for the National G&S Opera Company, creating a new ‘Young Audiences’ production for CCO, as part of their Concordia Foundation Legacy Award, recording new opera podcasts for ‘Little Radio’ alongside CBBC presenter Chris Jarvis – a project supported by Arts Council England and the Concordia Foundation, directing Opera Scenes for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and The Man in the Moon, an interactive family show in association with If Opera. His CCO productions of Express G & S, The Mikado and Patience toured in the UK. Selected by Opera Now as ‘The Pick of The Fringe,’ Patience, won the Opera Production category at the 2023 Offies and was also selected as ‘Best Opera of 2022’ by The Arts Desk.
The CCO production of Iolanthe, now available on CD and to download, was selected as a Sunday Times CD of the Week.
Directing engagements during 2022 / 2023 include creating a new Whistle stop opera surrounding The Cunning Little Vixen for Opera North, Ruddigore for Opera Holland Park and Rumpelstiltskin for the Charles Court Opera pantomime.
A feature interview appears in the May 2022 issue of Opera.
Please note that this biography is not to be used for programmes. Current information is available on request.
Rumpelstiltskin / Charles Court Opera at Park Theatre 2022
It is crazy. But in the best way possible. This show is the best way to warm you up on these cold nights. And amongst the lunacy is lucidity. Beneath the craziness is a very fine message indeed – and the balance is just right. Storytelling is threatened. It can be saved if there is enough belief in its power. The four performers are working on two levels. There is enough for us jaded adults, but they are aware that for many in the audience, this show might be their first experience of live theatre. Part of the pleasure of pantomime is watching the expressions of the younger audience members. It’s safe to say that these guys are now hooked. Job done!”
The Spy in the Stalls
Patience / Charles Court Opera at Wilton’s Music Hall 2022
“Savournin’s work in the skill of the reimagining and the projection of the text is perfection itself. You won’t see a better opera / operetta production this year.”
The Arts Desk
“It’s just a wonderful opera and this is a marvellous production”
“In fact, what really strikes one is that Charles Court Opera really appreciates how to make Gilbert and Sullivan work. The dialogue is beautifully spoken and often very funny, and the whole production has energy and that elusive quality: style.”
“The prize for the Summer’s most ecstatic audience is easy…The cast was on fire, one of those fabulous ensemble performances where everything sparks and creates a delirious momentum.” Pick of the Fringe
“John Savournin’s approach here, as elsewhere, is a modest but triumphant reassertion of balance – allowing the tried and tested structure of the music and drama to come through with help from some tasteful and discreet updating.”
Plays To See
“When ‘Patience’ opened in 1881, Gilbert thought the show’s appeal would prove just as ephemeral as its subject matter and wouldn’t be appreciated in years to come. Thankfully, Charles Court Opera have proved him wrong with their classy, timeless, imaginative and virtuosic production.”
The Spy in the Stalls
HMS Pinafore / Opera Holland Park 2022
“What a glorious show it is: infernal nonsense of the best kind.”
“When so many directors tinker with the text because of a fundamental lack of trust, it is so refreshing to find one who still relies on the original to deliver the goods.”
“John Savournin has never lost sight of the humour – no, it’s not exactly that, it’s the joy – of both the source material and the performances he brings out of his cast, led, as ever, by his own example. It’s all such fun!”
“John Savournin’s production is good-natured and respectful, and the simplicity of the design and directness of the delivery are both stylish and charming.”
“…a show that is poised and graceful, relying on acutely observed gesture and precision timing above extravagant props or absurdist flights of fancy.”
“Savournin as a director and performer of Gilbert and Sullivan possesses an incredibly safe pair of hands.”
The Reviews Hub
“…a trim, affectionate staging with an athletic and well-drilled cast throwing the humour into crisp relief.”
“John Savournin knows the Gilbert and Sullivan territory as well as (if not better than) anyone else in the business…”
Beowulf: An Epic Panto / Charles Court Opera 2021
“Savournin has crafted another genuinely heartwarming morality tale with a panto top-coat. In an entertaining and subversive way, it champions themes of love, image and acceptance.”
The Pirates of Penzance / Opera Holland Park 2021
“Savournin as director had a whole lot of stage to use and a tonne of ideas to fill it with.”
“Multi-skilled John Savournin, starring as the Pirate King and also director of the two-act comic opera, immerses us in a Toy Story-like world where a child’s birthday gifts – a Playmobil pirate ship, wind-up toy soldier and brightly coloured bricks – are brought to life.”
“Director John Savournin presented a colourful and energetic show, full of charm, some of it traditional, some new, but all entirely in keeping with G & S traditions.”
The Daily Mail
“(Opera Holland Park’s) minimal, witty staging of The Pirates of Penzance, excellently sung, came as close to cracking my stony, Gilbert-and-Sullivan-resistant heart as anyone could. John Savournin directed, and also sang a mean Pirate King…”
“Director John Savournin, who also sings the role of the Pirate King, is no stranger to directing comic opera…He offers an intuitive and charming production concept.”
“John Savournin’s joyous, multi coloured production for Opera Holland Park (is) exuberant, inventive and oddly touching.”
“Multi-talented John Savournin – a suave Pirate King – also directs with a security of tone that raises laughs in all the right places and yet ensures the logic of Gilbert’s plot, however absurd, makes sense.”
“It’s rare in London to see and hear Gilbert and Sullivan performed with such dazzle and panache as this.”
The Sunday Times
Express G & S / Charles Court Opera 2021
“A whistle stop jaunt through the G & S canon in 75 minutes. Five Stars.”
Iolanthe / Charles Court Opera 2021
“Beautifully delivered, effectively and rather touchingly pointing up the little observations Gilbert intended about the follies and absurdities we are such avid heirs to…”
Cinderella / Opera North
“Pasticcio is alive and well in the hands of Savournin…This is very much Savournin’s show…arranging, writing and directing three singers and two puppets, accompanied by violin and piano…an extremely valuable tool to encourage future audiences”
“John Savournin’s clever adaptations of operas often involve a change of focus… Savournin crafts a coherent, pleasingly silly, plot. Viardot supplies Cinderella’s dreams, Rossini the comic patter, Massenet the magic tree and the Prince as a travesty role and Rodgers and Hammerstein the big romantic moment with “Do I love you because you’re beautiful?”
The Reviews Hub
Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown / Charles Court Opera
“In the middle of the bleakest holiday season in recent memory, we don’t have to look any further than ‘Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown’ for an inoculation of positive energy, humour and joy.”
London Living Large
“Charming and bombastic, this production rises well to the challenges of not having the usual sort of audience interaction that pantomime is known for.”
“Once again, Charles Court Opera have delivered a pantomime that showcases all the talent involved brilliantly to offer real festive entertainment.”
Love London Love Culture
“Lockdown has clearly set the creative juices flowing…a panto like no other…the Charles Court Opera Company’s annual foray into pantomime has always been very much into a world of their own with at its heart arguably the best pantomime dame around – the multi-talented beanpole that is John Savournin, singer serious but dame delirious.”
“This year they have been forced to work behind closed doors, but their boundless, chaotic imaginations have not been restrained in the least and again, they have created a unique show dressed up in their distinctive style.”
Spy in the Stalls
“The writing is witty and well thought out, but leaves enough room for those classic panto gags that keep us coming back year after year.”
The Magic Flute / Charles Court Opera
“Director John Savournin has created a lively, accessible and stripped-down Flute for Iford which gives the lovers Tamino and Pamina a clear choice between the superstitious tribal culture of the Queen of the Night, and the humanist ethos of Enlightenment philosophy pioneered by the philosopher-sorcerer Sarastro.”
“The director, John Savournin, has an impressive track record, both as director and performer, in Gilbert & Sullivan productions, so has had a good deal of practice in being creatively silly, but this joyous opera at the King’s Head must be his most glorious production yet.”
The Magic Flute / Charles Court Opera at Iford Arts
“Savournin at his most resourceful.”
The Arts Desk
Do I Hear a Waltz? / Park Theatre
“Savournin can be proud of a well-rehearsed, very well-sung interpretation.”
Music Theatre Review
“There is a refreshing simplicity and lack of fuss about John Savournin’s direction.”
The Barber of Seville / Charles Court Opera at Iford Arts
“Making a virtue out of this challengingly small stage area, the sense of eavesdropping never leaves the audience thanks to having to peer between the arches of the cloisters, and director John Savournin maximises this to the full.”
“…an ensemble cast who, under the direction of John Savournin, worked exceptionally well.”
The Gondoliers: National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company
“John Savournin’s production gives you exactly what you need.”
The Arts Desk
H. M. S. Pinafore / Charles Court Opera
“Charles Court Opera’s irresistible staging of Gilbert & Sullivan’s nautical comedy directed v John Savournin…”
“Savournin’s staging is a winning blend of Benny Hill knockabout, operatic parody and music hall song-and-dance.”
The Mikado / Charles Court Opera
“Gilbert and Sullivan wrote The Mikado during a national fixation with all things Japanese, but in his infinitely inventive production, director John Savournin enjoys to the full the work’s universal strands: the idiocy of pompous self-regard, the resourcefulness of lovers and the madness of legislation and procedure.”
“John Savournin directs with surety and panache. The production simply cannot be bettered.”
The Spy in the Stalls
“From the opening explosion of energy this is a show that knows where it’s heading, and that’s to five-star heaven. Savournin’s direction never misses a beat.”
Ruddigore / Charles Court Opera
“Charles Court Opera’s dynamic and brightly-sung production, created by actor-director John Savournin, captures our attention from the outset and holds it joyfully until the rousing final chorus.”
“CCO’s fast moving production is directed by John Savournin who has taken 1950s Hammer horror movies as his inspiration. Somehow, the intermittent menacing rumbles of thunder and eerie lighting underline the Hammer connection. The concept works brilliantly, particularly with such a talented cast.”
Trial by Jury / Opera North
“John Savournin’s production of Trial by Jury was a delight from start to finish.”
“First mention must go to director John Savournion and movement director Tim Claydon who ensured that a feverish energy was maintained throughout with a range of contrapuntal, virtuosic stage that business that was bewildering.”
Seen and Heard International
“All you really need to know about the veteran Savoyard John Savournin’s 1920s updating of Trial by Jury is that it’s a delight; a screwball P.G. Wodehouse world of blustering bobbies, stuffed chihuahuas, tweedy jurors and cakewalking judges in straw boaters, cast and conducted to sparkling perfection…It’s the best Trial by Jury I have ever seen.”