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At home with opera

Nicki Household reports on what's on offer at the refurbished London Coliseum.

The London Coliseum, home to the English National Opera (ENO), re-opens on February 7 following a pound;14 million refurbishment funded by the National Lottery. As well as recapturing its former Edwardian glory, the building, now in its centenary year, has its first dedicated education space.

The company has had a thriving education programme, ENO Baylis, since 1985, but the new Clore Duffield room will provide a space where schools can take part in workshops and then watch a performance under the same roof. In the past, educational sessions were held in separate premises in Hackney and schools had to make an extra journey to see an evening performance at the Coliseum.

The new purpose-built room can accommodate an audience of around 50 for small-scale performances involving around four players, four singers and lighting effects. The new education room will bring schools closer to the action, says Baylis projects manager, Catherine Sutton.

"The Clore Duffield room brings education to the heart of the building and it will give schools a greater sense of participation," she says. "Being based in the theatre will also give us better access to artists, composers and librettists."

ENO Baylis's "Enjoy Opera" scheme aims to help visiting pupils get the most out of the opera they are about to see. Groups can opt for a one-hour talk, which includes a general introduction to opera and a backstage tour, or a two-hour creative workshop based on a theme from the production. These are led by a staff diretor with a singer and repetiteur (pianist), and involve practical singing and drama work tailored to the age-group.

There are "Enjoy Opera" opportunities linked to all this season's productions and the education department is now taking bookings for this term's performances - Nixon in China by John Adams, Rhinegold (Wagner), Tosca (Puccini) and The Magic Flute (Mozart). The summer term offerings are The Mikado (Gilbert and Sullivan), Carmen (Bizet), Verdi's Ernani and Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Workshops cost pound;5, talks are pound;2 and tickets for the performance (good seats in the upper circle) are pound;5. For more details on school workshops and inset programmes: Tel: 0207 739 5808 Email: baylis@eno.org

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