UPDATE [17 December 2015]: Voting is now open! Please visit ClassicFM to vote for OperaPLUS as “Best Music Education Initiative”
Jackdaws OperaPLUS has been nominated in the Music Teacher Magazine Awards for Excellence in the category “Best Classical Music Education Initiative”. The award, sponsored by ClassicFM, is recognition of the incredible work this project has done to share high quality opera with children and young people in hard to reach communities across Somerset.
OperaPLUS was the first of many projects created and set up by Jackdaws Artistic Director, Saffron van Zwanenberg:
“It was borne of many different personal experiences which led to a great desire to bring about a combination of outcomes, namely that children and young people have a positive experience of opera and benefit from the well documented effects of participating in music. Young artists receive training and experience in community and education work, in a supported and career enhancing way and hard to reach communities have access to high quality opera in an accessible and affordable setting. It was also important to me that the operas came from the mainstream repertoire to give context to the varied, everyday use of this repertoire that the children and audiences hear in their daily lives.”
OperaPLUS is a key part of Jackdaws Music Education Trust’s work to enable creative expression by bringing music to life in an accessible, inclusive and inspirational way.
The project brings together primary school children and professional opera singers from Jackdaws Young Artist programme, to perform full length versions of well-known operas, sung in English. It is directed by Jackdaws Artistic Director, Saffron van Zwanenberg, with the musical direction of Audrey Hyland, Royal Academy of Music professor and vocal coach. The young, professional cast take the lead roles and the chorus’s and other roles are adapted for performance by the participating children, numbering up to 120 per performance. There are a series of workshops prior to the performances with the cast and director and then the cast and children perform alongside each other in accessible venues in the heart of their communities to large audiences, many of whom are new to opera.
The first OperaPLUS production was The Magic Flute by Mozart in June 2010, with one performance in Frome, Somerset, involving three local schools. Since then, the project has developed year on year so that in 2015, OperaPLUS was able to present the most ambitious production yet. Working with 14 schools from across Somerset, Jackdaws delivered 5 performances of the Stylist of Somerset (Rossini’s Barber of Seville) in different areas throughout this rural country.
The production was featured on BBC Somerset Radio by Ben McGrail, who used OperaPLUS as an opportunity to ask the public what they thought of opera. The result was overwhelmingly positive which is reflected in the way it is received by the children and families who participate.
In 2016, OperaPLUS will continue to build on its past successes by presenting a production of Donizetti’s The Love Potion (L’elisir d’amore) with 5 performances including 18 schools. Each school will work with the cast and production team to prepare their music for the performance and are supported with a free set of resources including sheet music and recordings of their parts, all downloadable from the Jackdaws website.
OperaPLUS is supported by Sound Foundation Somerset, the Music Hub for Somerset and Arts Council England.