Mid Wales Opera’s creative team went back to school – swapping their usual cast and orchestra for an entire junior school in Montgomery.
Artistic director Richard Studer, music director Jonathan Lyness and freelance singer/vocal coach Maria Jagusz have spent a week in Montgomery Church in Wales School, working with more than 40 children to design, write, costume and perform their very own opera from scratch.
Headteacher Judith Baker has been delighted with the results. She said: “The children have been buzzing with this all week, they have been working across ages and in groups to share ideas and I have not seen one session where the children were not fully engaged.
“Every child has been able to contribute and share their gifts. We are in the business of educating the whole person, and giving them access to working with these high quality professionals with such incredible experience in their field was something we could not afford to miss.”
The children’s production is based around the cartoons which inspired Janacek’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen, but in their version, their fox cub hero, Joey, travels through the Arctic and into space, meeting lovelorn killer whales, space cows and moon monkeys on his travels.
Teacher Nicky Steer has seen her classroom transformed into a stage, costume workshop and director’s studio. She said: “This has been an amazing opportunity for the children to work with a music director, artistic director and singer and they have been enthusiastic at every stage of the creative process.”
The week-long residency is funded through the Arts Council of Wales Creative Collaborations fund, and designed specifically to suit Montgomery schools, addressing key areas of the curriculum including extended writing and creativity and encouraging teamwork across age groups with children aged seven to 11 taking part.
General manager Lydia Bassett said: “Not many junior school children get the chance to make their own opera in a week – but that’s exactly what these children have done this week, and they have done a brilliant job.
“We have been working with schools across Montgomeryshire for many years, but this is a whole new way of working for us and for the pupils.
“They have been able to develop a story, write songs and dialogue and create sets and costume from scratch in just a week with our staff working alongside them for the whole school day.”
Pictures by Mike Sheridan
See full story in the County Times