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Creating Opera In The Classroom
Mini opera in the Howard Assembly Room - photo by Jonny Walton
Over 120 pupils at four Leeds primary schools have been given the chance to write and stage their own operatic works, thanks to Children & the Arts and Opera North.

After attending Opera North's recent schools' matinee performance of Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Leeds Grand Theatre, Year 5 pupils at Burley St Matthias CE Primary School, Armley Primary School, White Laith Primary School and Green Lane Primary Academy were encouraged to respond creatively to the opera's characters, themes and music. This included writing their own mini-operas under the guidance of professional composer Michael Betteridge and director Jonathan Ainscough.

Performing mini opera with Opera North- photo by JonnyWalton
Nicola Sheerin, Head Teacher at White Laith, said:

"It's been wonderful to see the children engage so imaginatively with the challenge of writing an opera. Before we began this project with Opera North, many of the pupils had no idea what opera was and those that did were convinced it wasn't for them. That all changed after our trip to the Hansel and Gretel schools' matinee in Leeds - suddenly there was a real buzz around music, singing and performance.

It's been lovely to watch the children flourish and develop with each workshop and to see what they have all created together."

Humperdinck's opera is based on the Brothers Grimm traditional tale of two hungry children lost in the woods and tempted by the wicked witch's gingerbread house.

Inspired by their trip to the theatre, each group created their own versions of The Missing Adventures of Hansel and Gretel, with final ideas including an evil goblin holding the children captive in a basket, an army of sinister scarecrows who are ultimately defeated by the Sandman, an encounter with wild wolves who lead the unsuspecting pair into a trap, and a crocodile master with very sharp teeth which he insists Hansel and Gretel clean.

Exploring opera with Opera North- photo by Jonny Walton
Opera North Education Director, Jacqui Cameron said:

"The children have responded really well to Humperdinck's opera and have devised some excellent mini versions.

"We are delighted to have had this opportunity to introduce opera in an enjoyable, accessible way to so many young people and are very grateful to Children & the Arts for enabling us to bring music into the lives of the pupils at the four chosen schools.

"We very much hope that the project will have inspired some of the students to take up music or performance longer term - and perhaps even to consider becoming opera singers in the future."

The resulting works will be performed before an invited audience in the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds on Monday 27 March, when pupils from all four schools will see each other's creations for the very first time. The children will also perform excerpts from Hansel and Gretel, including the popular Evening Prayer.

Creating Opera In The Classroom, 25th March 2017, 19:53 PM