MORE than 50 Montgomery junior schoolchildren were temporarily transformed into dragons, dwarves, unicorns and wizards as part of Mid Wales Opera’s residency in Montgomery Church in Wales School.

The company’s artistic directors Richard Studer and Jonathan Lyness were joined by professional singer Maria Jagusz working with 57 children aged seven to 11 to create an opera from scratch, starting with the Welsh folk tale of the sleeping dragons hiding under Dinas Emrys.

The children wrote songs, created characters and storylines, their own scripts and music to perform for parents and school friends last Friday at the end of the weeklong residency.

“It’s been really inspirational and the energy levels are superb. Seeing the collaborative work between the Artistic Directors and the pupils is wonderful,” said schoo, headteacher Anna Griggs.

“All of the children have been able to get involved and they have a huge sense of pride in their work and ownership of what they have created. The children were already buzzing about last year’s work so we knew they would get straight back into it, and from the school’s perspective the programme covers the whole curriculum, not just creativity but literacy as well writing scripts and stories.”

The residency was funded by the Arts Council of Wales’ Creative Collaborations programme and took over the entire junior school curriculum for a full week, culminating in a performance on Friday afternoon.

Lydia Bassett, Mid Wales Opera’s executive director, said: “This is our second week long residency in Montgomery school and the children were incredibly excited to have the company back.

“The way we work is completely led by the pupils so the whole script and all the songs are put together during the week – we never know what to expect so this year we’ve got vanishing unicorns, eight dwarves, hobbits and some dragons.

“Children are great to work with because there’s no limit to their imagination – and because we have worked in Montgomery school before the children have no concept that opera is something strange or different, to them it is about having fun with music and words and creating a great performance which everyone can enjoy – which of course is exactly what opera is about,” said Lydia.

The children’s production brought together Welsh folk stories as well as cartoon characters and a mix of original music they have written for the show and musical theatre classics ranging from “Into the Woods” and “The Sound of Music” to Bernstein’s “Candide”.

PIC 1: MID Wales Opera musical director Jonathan Lyness is seen with some of the children from Montgomery School who built an opera from scratch before presenting it for the rest of the school and parents last Friday afternoon. Picture by: PHIL BLAGG (PB292-2018-7.

PIC 2: MONTGOMERY School pupils Gabriel Sant-Anna Heerdt and Alex Gannon, right, are pictured with Mid Wales Opera’s musical director Jonathan Lyness working on their own opera about dragons. Picture by: PHIL BLAGG (PB292-2018-3)